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Libya: medical services in Nefusa mountains struggling

18-07-2011 Operational Update

Medical services in the Nefusa mountains are struggling to cope with the needs of war casualties and ordinary patients. The lives of many patients are put at risk by a lack of medicines, while a shortage of vaccines could portend an outbreak of communicable diseases.

ICRC staff recently visited a number of towns in the Nefusa mountains, including Nalut, Jadu, Zitan and Yefren. During the trip, the ICRC provided health-care facilities in the area with bandages and other consumables needed to treat war casualties. As a result of the armed conflict, medical facilities in the area are cut off from Libya's health ministry and are struggling to cope with the needs of ordinary and war-wounded patients.

"There is a shortage of antibiotics, and of vaccines against measles, chicken pox and polio," said Georges Comninos, who is heading the ICRC's operations in Libya. "Drugs for treating chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, kidney failure and mental disorders are also in very short supply."

Dangers posed by unexploded ordnance

In recent months, thousands of people in the Nefusa mountains have fled across the border to Tunisia, while others have been displaced within the region. As the security situation improves in certain areas, some people are starting to return home.

"It is urgent to protect the returnees by clearing explosive devices left from recent rounds of fighting," said Mr Comninos. "And it is no less urgent that civilians be made aware of the dangers posed by these remnants of war."

Visiting detainees

ICRC staff visited a number of people in the Jebel Nefusa area detained in connection with the armed conflict. They collected so-called "safe and well" messages that will be delivered to families to inform them that their detained relatives are alive. ICRC visits to people detained in connection with the conflict will continue.

First visit to Al Kufra

Al Kufra, the largest district in Libya, borders Egypt in the east, Sudan in the south-east, and Chad in the south, and is thus a transit post for migrants from those neighbouring countries. The district capital, Al Jawf, with a population of around 50,000, was the scene of armed clashes a few weeks ago. The ICRC recently visited the town, which lies in the largest oasis in the Kufra basin, in the middle of the Sahara desert, to assess the need for humanitarian aid.

The main hospital in Al Jawf, with 120 beds, is functional and has enough medicine in stock to last about two to three months. However, it no longer has any surgeons, since those who had been on its staff were foreigners who left when hostilities broke out. Apart from the hospital, five clinics provide basic medical care, but their services have been disrupted by the lack of electricity, as have irrigation systems that rely on pumping stations.

The ICRC also visited a transit camp for about 1,000 foreign nationals to determine whether and to what extent food and essential household items were needed.

The ICRC will follow up and take any necessary action in the near future.

Enhancing the skills of surgeons

For the first time, two specialist ICRC surgeons conducted a two-day seminar on the treatment of war wounds at the Tripoli Medical Centre. The 45 participants came from 14 hospitals in Tripoli, Zlitan, Al Zawiyah and other cities, including Sabha and Murzuq in the south of the Fezzan region.

The ICRC regularly distributes medical supplies to hospitals where war casualties have been or are likely to be taken. The supplies include surgical equipment, intravenous fluids and dressing materials.

Clearing explosive devices in Misrata

Although the situation in Misrata has become more stable, the many unexploded devices still in the city pose a serious threat to the population and need to be removed. Five ICRC explosive ordnance disposal experts are helping the authorities clear away the devices.

The ICRC has donated equipment, spare parts and consumables such as chlorine to the Misrata water board, which provides safe water for the city's 550,000 people.

These activities, as well as visits to detainees and support for the Libyan Red Crescent and health-care facilities in Misrata, will henceforth be coordinated from an office the ICRC opened in the city.

For further information, please contact:
Robin Waudo, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +881 622 435 156
    Mobile: +218 913 066 198 / +218 928 684 254
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 50


Photos

The ICRC, with the support of the Libyan Red Crescent, is delivering war-wounded medical kits to hospitals situated near conflict areas. 

The ICRC, with the support of the Libyan Red Crescent, is delivering war-wounded medical kits to hospitals situated near conflict areas.
© ICRC