Libya: conflict extends to hospitals

Image: People burn pictures of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi inside the main prison of Gaddafi's forces in Benghazi February 28, 2011. Foreign powers accelerated efforts to help oust Gaddafi on Monday as rebels fought government forces trying to take back strategic coastal cities on either side of the capital Tripoli. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

Al Jazeera reports that In Tripoli, Pro-Gaddafi militia members are harrassing doctors, removing the bodies of people killed in political violence, and prohibiting doctors from taking photographs of their wounds.

Alia (not her real name), a doctor in the capital, said a patient was brought into her hospital yesterday with a gunshot wound to his chest. He expired after ten minutes, and his body was taken away by armed men wearing the characteristic green armband of pro-Gaddafi supporters.

"When they die, they don't let people come near them, [because] they don't want people taking pictures/videos," Alia said.

In related news, the international humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reports that a first team of medical staff was able to cross the Egyptian border into Libya, on the eastern side of the country, and reach the town of Benghazi. Since Friday, the MSF team has been assessing the situation in three area hospitals.

These medical facilities were reported to have received more than 1,800 wounded people between February 17 and February 21. Each facility is well equipped and managed to take care of the wounded and serve their medical needs. However, they are facing shortages in medical materials and drugs.

The MSF team donated medical supplies to these facilities, including consumables, dressing, sutures, anesthesia drugs, and external fixators. The team is also training local medical staff in the management of mass casualties so they are prepared in the event of new clashes.

Eight tons of medical supplies, including surgical materials, have arrived in Benghazi and additional 12 tons of supplies are on their way through Egypt to Libya.

The MSF team in Benghazi is composed of eight staff members, including three medical staff. An orthopedic surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and an operating theater nurse will join them today to assess the surgical needs of wounded patients in Al-Jalaa Hospital. Some patients currently hospitalized in this 400-bed trauma center may require second-line surgery.

To the west, an MSF team has been deployed at the now-closed Tunisia-Libya border, ready to cross over with medical material to assist victims of violence when the opportunity presents itself. Four tons of medical and surgical material arrived in Tunis over the weekend and soon will be sent towards the border.

In recent days, thousands of migrant workers have been fleeing from Libya into Tunisia. The MSF team on the border is assessing the situation in coordination with other actors on the ground, coping with the massive influx of people. The team is ready and equipped to address medical needs of new arrivals, should the need arise, and will be reinforced with additional medical staff in coming days.

Libya: MSF Supporting Health Facilities in Benghazi, Ready to Assist Victims of Violence