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Libya: armed conflict hinders urgent health care

02-09-2011 News Footage Ref. V-F-CR-F-01104-A

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.

  • TV news footage transmitted worldwide on Eurovision News Exchange (EVN) 02 September 2011
  • Footage available from the ICRC Video Newsroom from 03 September 2011 -  www.icrcvideonewsroom.org
    For more information, please contact Didier Revol, ICRC, Geneva, tel: + 41 79 217 32 82 or e-mail

"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.

Shotlist

0:00  ICRC vehicle on road from Tripoli to Zawiyah.

0:03  ICRC medical delegate Judy Owen from New Zealand sitting at wheel.

0:07  ICRC along with other vehicles going through a checkpoint.

0:09 Quote by ICRC Medical delegate Judy Owen, in English as she drives towards Zawiyah:
"We knew they would be using a lot of medical supplies, dressings, infusions, antibiotics and things like this so we had a warehouse full of these items so every time we went out on the road we loaded our vehicles with war wounded kits and infusions and dressing sets and we tried to visit as many health structures as we could. The most important thing is that once the staff  started to come back to work they were able to operate on all these people but they needed the supplies to be replenished and that was a major role that the ICRC played".

0:38 ICRC vehicle on road near Zawiyah, west of Tripoli in Libya.

0:42 ICRC vehicle drives up to a medical storage at the Zawyiah hospital.

0:47 Judy Owen, ICRC medical delegate, parking her vehicle.

0:49 ICRC health delegates meet with head pharmacist Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast outside hospital medical warehouse.

0:56 Zawiyah hospital head pharmacist Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast talking to Mohamed Burmad, Nola Henry and Judy Owen of the ICRC outside the medical warehouse.
0:56 Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast showing an unexploded bomb inside the hospital compound.

1:08  CU of unexploded devise.

1:12 Main entrance of the Zawiyah hospital.

1:18 Shot through window at the main entrance of the Zawiyah hospital.

1:21 Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast showing Judy Owen, ICRC medical delegate and Mohamed Burmad, ICRC medical field officer damage inside the hospital operating theatre ward after a bomb blast.

1:32 CU of bullet holes on the wall of the OT ward.

1:34 Quote by Pharmacist Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast, in Arabic:
"During the attack we were working intensively. The operating theatre was really busy treating the injured, so we just had to carry on".

1:41 Pan of damaged office.

1:52 Hospital corridors with patients.

2:03 ICRC delegates leave main entrance of Zawiyah hospital passing by a column ridden with bullet holes.

2:06 Offloading of boxes with a war wounded kit from two ICRC vehicles.

2:16 A trolley loaded with ICRC medical supplies enters the warehouse at Zawiyah hospital.

2:23 ICRC health delegate Judy Owen and head pharmacist Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast inspect contents of boxes and packing list.

2:34 Quote by Pharmacist Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast, in Arabic:
"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."

3:02 Pharmacist Dr. Mahoud El-Ahrast inspects contents of ICRC boxes.

3:15 Armed guards outside the magnate of Sbea hospital, southeast of Tripoli.

3:25 Exterior view of Sbea hospital.

3:30 Ambulance pulls up to the emergency entrance of Sbea hospital.

3:36 Prof. Hesham Ben Khayal, Haad of Neurosurgery dept., General director of Sbea hospital enters door to show broken window, a witness to the fighting around the hospital. Interview in English
"One day during the attacks, during our accommodation last week here in the hospital there was one of the rebels he tried to escape attacks from the military outside the hospital and he broke this window and he escaped inside the hospital. And at that time we were staying here at the hospital around maybe not more than 25 persons from the doctors and the administrative people out of 1000 who should work in this hospital trying to cooperate with the patients and help them during the attack of Gasar Ben Gashir and Tripoli".

4:21 Prof. Hesham Ben Khayal, General director of Sbea hospital in the reception of the hospital with members of his staff.  

4:39 Interview in English with Prof. Hesham Ben Khayal, Haad of Neurosurgery dept., General director of Sbea hospital:
"The ICRC now for the time being they are performing surgery. They have performed four surgeries, especially orthopaedic surgery. We don't have our team in the orthopaedic surgery, they stayed in Tripoli, they couldn't come here during the attacks. It was completely isolated this area from Tripoli so they came and helped most of the patients who needed surgery in the orthopaedic. And at the same time they supply us with a lot of material and equipment.  We were in very shortage of this material".

5:09 View of hospital corridor with a anaesthetist visiting a patient going into surgery.

5:30 Interview in English with ICRC War Surgeon Alberto Nardini:
"Our contribution here is to be side to side with the colleagues who have a very good level surgeons and a very good level of health system but not an experience in war surgery and we have a very long experience at the ICRC in war surgery so we are trying to upgrade their capacity to cope with this particular type of pathology that are the war wounded".

5:47 View of Operating Theatre, patient with a gun wound to his left leg being prepared for operation.

5:52 CU ICRC War Surgeon Alberto Nardini disinfecting wounded leg.

5:55 ICRC anaesthetist Pekka Mononen watching the operating team consisting of from the left: ICRC War Surgeon Alberto Nardini, Orthopaedic doctor Mansour Ramadan and ICRC OT nurse Leila Marjatta Koho.

6:02 CU of a pulse oximeter

6:09 Wide view of Operating Theatre

6:13 CU of Doctors Alberto Nardini, ICRC and Mansour Ramadan.

6:17  WARNING: Explicit CU of wound

6:21 From left: ICRC OT nurse Leila Marjatta Koho. ICRC War Surgeon Alberto Nardini and Orthopaedic doctor Mansour Ramadan.

6:24 CU of Doctors Alberto Nardini, ICRC and Mansour Ramadan.

6:36 CU of ICRC OT Nurse Leila Marjatta Koho and a local nurse.

6:43 Wide view of OT team cleaning leg wound.

6:48 ICRC anaesthetist Pekka Mononen surveilling his patient.

6:52  ICRC War Surgeon Alberto Nardini standing next to his patient comments in English:
"It's one of the most common, first it's a wound that is a gunshot wound, high velocity bullet to the lower limb. So I would like to say it is one of the most common lesions that we find".

7:10 An ICRC provided external fixator being applied to a wounded leg.   

7:20 Tripoli: Street view of traffic and a boy crossing street with a bag of bread as city comes to life again after the fighting at the end of Ramadan.

7:28 A man painting his wall with the Libyan flag.  

7:40 END

For further information, please contact:
Robin Waudo, ICRC Tripoli, tel: + 881 622 435 156 / + 218 913 066 198
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 79 536 92 50 / + 41 22 730 20 11


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  • Copyright: ICRC Access All
  • Release year: 30 August and 1 September 2011
  • Production locations: Zawiyah west of Tripoli and Gasar Ben Gashir, southeast of Tripoli, Libya
  • Running time: 9'16 min
  • Languages available: (Sound) English, Arabic
  • Reference: V-F-CR-F-01104-A

Format: Mpeg4 / 16:9 anamorphic / SD