Libyan doctor-turned-tech-CEO Mohamed Aburawi helped develop a telehealth platform so doctors who had left their countries could treat patients back home– now the app is being used to help triage cases in Libya’s fight against COVID-19.
Aburawi grew up in Libya, studied medicine and did a surgical internship in Egypt before securing in 2015 scholarship to Harvard Medical school. For the last four years he has been working at the Massachusetts General Hospital but saw that many doctors left their own countries never to return.
In 2016 he founded Speetar, a telehealth platform and app that links health professionals in the diaspora with patients in their home regions.
From Forbes. Story by Andrew Wight.
“We targeted special populations, those who are marginalized, to give them a connection with physicians who understand their language and context.”
Then all of a sudden says Aburawi, COVID-19 came along.
“Libya was a country crushed between a civil war and a pandemic,” he said.
As of the latest WHO update, Libya had only 8 confirmed cases since March 24, which Aburawi said could be a combination of under-reporting combined with some unique features of the country’s geography and history.
Since 2011, the country has had two civil wars, including the current conflict which started in 2014. It also has a land border with Egypt, currently one of the biggest COVID-19 hubs in Africa and is only about 300 miles from Italy across the Mediterranean Sea.
“In a way, our curse has turned in our favor,” he said, “With the civil war going on for so many years, we don’t really have functioning airports most of the time, so there aren’t tourists, no-one comes direct to Libya.”
Aburawi, who is also now an Aspen New Voices Fellow, says Libya – Africa’s fourth-largest country by area – doesn’t have many large urban centers and almost everyone drives private cars rather than public transport. All of this limits the high-contact environments found in many other countries.
But Libya also has a relatively high proportion of smartphone connectivity, so the Speetar platform can be used as a tool to help decide who needed to go to the clinic and who should continue to self-isolate at home.
Read more at Forbes.