05-09-2011 | Africa

Libya: armed conflict hinders urgent health care

ENG

Medical facilities before the conflict were functioning in Tripoli, but access to health care and life saving treatment became very difficult since the city was turned into a battlefield. Dozens of wounded people who urgently needed treatment did not receive it and died. Health-care workers often couldn't access medical facilities due to the fighting. At the same time, hospitals and local clinics needed adequate medical supplies to be able to treat the many war wounded.

"Wounded people, medical staff and facilities are protected by international humanitarian law", said Georges Comninos, the head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli. "We repeatedly call on all parties involved to allow health-care workers to do their jobs safely. Wounded people must have access to health care."

When the fighting broke out on 20 August in Gasar Ben Gashir, southeast of Tripoli, Sbea Hospital was left with a skeleton staff of only 25 medical and administrative workers with over 100 patients in need of medical assistance.

Two fully operational ICRC surgical teams have recently arrived in Libya to provide assistance in hospitals. In coordination with the authorities, on 29 August one team was deployed in Sbea Hospital, which was on the front line for several days. The ICRC team has performed several complicated surgeries involving gunshot wounds. "War trauma is particularly different from civilian trauma", remarked ICRC's war surgeon, Alberto Nardini.

Fighting occurred on the premises of Sbea Hospital. "One day during the attacks... one of the rebels tried to escape attacks from the military outside the hospital and he broke this window and he escaped inside the hospital," recalls Prof. Hesham Ben Khayal, Head of Neurosurgery Department and General Director of Sbea Hospital. The military forces pursuing the armed fighter fired on him as he escaped and the hospital suffered damage to one section including its water recycling plant. Although no one was injured, the medical staff and patients were distraught.

The ICRC continues to donate medical supplies including dressings, infusions, medicines and surgical kits to medical facilities. In the past few days, these medical supplies have been delivered to Sbea Hospital and the main hospital in Zawiya, another town recently affected by intense fighting. "For any hospital in the world the medical supplies are of utmost importance. And because of the fighting and the number of injured we have found the delivery of these supplies of great help for the hospital to function and for it to continue to give medical assistance to the needy," said Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast, pharmacist at the hospital in Zawiya.


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