Last Updated: Tuesday, 01 December 2015, 13:36 GMT

Libya: supporting medical services in disputed areas

Publisher International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Publication Date 15 September 2011
Cite as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Libya: supporting medical services in disputed areas, 15 September 2011, available at: [accessed 2 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

With the shift of the front lines to four disputed areas – in and around Bani Walid, Jufra, Sabha and Sirte – the ICRC is providing medical assistance. In the past week it visited hundreds of detainees and delivered aid to some 12,000 people in need.

In recent days the ICRC has delivered urgently needed medical supplies for the treatment of up to 500 wounded people in or near Bani Walid, south-east of Tripoli, and Jufra and Sabha, further south.

"We are concerned about a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in these three areas as well as in and around Sirte. Heavy fighting has already taken place and it could intensify," said Georges Comninos, the head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli. "We remind the parties to the conflict of their obligation to take all possible precautions to protect civilians, and health-care personnel and facilities."

Medical assistance to Bani Walid

"Bani Walid's central hospital is not working at all. Because of the fighting, the staff cannot reach the hospital. Medical supplies can't either," said Detta Gleeson, an ICRC health delegate.

"On 10 September, we delivered surgical items for 100 patients and other medical supplies to Tarhuna Hospital – the hospital closest to the centre of Bani Walid that is still functioning – which had already admitted casualties," said Ms Gleeson. "As soon as possible, Tarhuna Hospital will send staff and the most urgently needed medical supplies to the central hospital in Bani Walid, closer to incoming casualties."

In and around Sabha

On 11 September, at the request of medical personnel on the ground, the ICRC delivered surgical and other medical supplies to the field hospital in Brak, some 80 kilometres north of Sabha, in a disputed area in the south-west of Libya.

A few days earlier, ICRC staff had assessed the humanitarian situation in Sabha, including the capacity of medical facilities there to cope with a heavy influx of casualties. Materials for the treatment of up to 100 war-wounded patients, 60 body bags and other supplies were delivered to the hospital and two clinics in the town. There were a few wounded patients, but despite a shortage of staff the hospital appeared to be able to cope.

"All of the local authorities welcomed the ICRC during its brief stay in Sabha," said Mr Comninos. "But generally speaking there is a lack of law and order in the area. Some uncontrolled arms carriers have looted various places in and around the town." This was the third ICRC mission to Sabha since the beginning of the conflict.

Medical consignments delivered by the ICRC include wound-dressing materials, intravenous fluids and external fixators for fractured limbs.

The ICRC also sent medical supplies to the hospital in Hun. This town is situated south of Jufra, where humanitarian needs could increase in the near future.

The ICRC is also continuing its efforts to maintain contact with the authorities and with the Libyan Red Crescent in Sirte with a view to providing assistance there. Materials for the treatment of up to 200 war-wounded patients are in Misrata, ready to be deployed to Sirte, as are other supplies.

2,500 detainees in Tripoli

In recent days the ICRC has continued to visit detainees, including many sub-Saharan Africans as well as other foreign nationals, in Tripoli. Over the past three weeks, the ICRC has visited 10 places of detention in the city where around 2,500 people are held.

Some 350 detainees in Misrata and 300 detainees in Gharyan and two other places in the Nefusa mountains have also been visited by the ICRC over the past week.

During these visits, ICRC delegates assess the conditions in which detainees are being held and the treatment they receive. The ICRC shares its findings bilaterally with the detaining authorities.

Assistance for almost 10,000 needy people in Tripoli

On 13 September, the ICRC distributed hygiene items to some 6,650 people in poor neighbourhoods of Tripoli and to a further 2,650 needy people on the outskirts of the city. In addition, it supplied diapers to mothers with infants. This distribution was carried out in cooperation with the local mosques and the Libyan Red Crescent.

"The people we assisted are mostly Libyans who rely on social welfare," said Mr Comninos. "Because of a lack of liquidity in the banks, they have not been able to receive any income. That's why we are stepping in to ease their situation in these difficult times."

1,300 people displaced in the desert

Hundreds of families, mainly from Ben Jawad and other towns along the Mediterranean coast west of Ras Lanuf, have fled their homes because of the tensions and fighting in the area. For more than two weeks they have been living in tents in the desert, some 150 kilometres south of the coastal town of Nawfaliya. ICRC staff recently assessed their situation and delivered aid.

"The living conditions of these families are difficult and the desert climate is harsh. It's especially hard for the kids and babies," said Ghafar Bishtawi, an ICRC delegate. "They have no electricity, their food and water are mixed with sand and their tents are easily blown away by the wind."

Together with Libyan Red Crescent volunteers the ICRC has distributed food and hygiene items to over 1,300 people displaced in the desert. Those who asked to call their families were given the opportunity to do so. Many had had no contact at all with their loved ones since the beginning of the conflict.

"Like many others in different parts of Libya, these people said they feared to go back home," added Mr Bishtawi. "It is crucial that civilians be protected by all parties, at all times, without any kind of discrimination. They mustn't be prevented from going back home. We are raising this issue with the authorities concerned and with community leaders."

Only a few families have returned to Ben Jawad. The hospital there is not functioning.

This week the ICRC and Libyan Red Crescent also started to distribute food and hygiene items to 1,100 people in Ras Lanuf. Most of the people receiving the aid had stayed in the town during the fighting or had just returned home, but some had been displaced from Brega, Ben Jawad or Nawfaliya.

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