Libya: preparing for the future while dealing with the present

As Libya takes on the challenge of constitutional and political reform, the impact of the past conflict is still being felt by many. The ICRC and the Libyan Red Crescent continue to provide urgent relief. In addition, they are making a major effort to ensure that medical staff and emergency workers receive the training they need to perform their tasks in the best possible manner. "Many volunteers and doctors lost their lives during the war," said Abdulhamid Madani, secretary-general of the Libyan Red Crescent. "We must ensure that our organization and all involved in relief activities in emergency situations are ready to take action if the need arises. Being ready could help us save many lives."

In some parts of Libya, displaced people continue to suffer the consequences of last year's conflict in the country. "In Abu Grein, 120 kilometres south-east of Misrata, we found hundreds of displaced people living in public facilities and around a local council warehouse," said Asma Awan, an ICRC delegate based in Tripoli. "Some had been displaced for over a year and were in desperate need of assistance. We provided around 600 of them with a one-month supply of food and with other essentials such as blankets, mattresses and hygiene items."

Thousands of refugees have arrived in Libya from Syria since the beginning of the crisis in their country. Many have settled in Misrata, western Libya. Within the past two months, the Libyan Red Crescent and the Misrata-based Syrian Refugees Council have registered more than 500 families, most of them newly arrived. Although local communities have been generous, some of the newcomers badly needed help during the first days after their arrival. The Misrata branch of the Libyan Red Crescent and the ICRC distributed food and other essentials to cover the needs of 3,000 people for a month. 

Training in disaster management

The ICRC and the Libyan Red Crescent recently brought together 12 government and civil society organizations and more than 150 people for a one-day training course in disaster management and response. The exercise, a simulation of an airplane crash, took place at Ma'tiqah airport in Tripoli.

Among the participants were ambulance and emergency services, the National Safety Authority, security forces, the health, interior and defence ministries, the air force, the crisis management team of the prime minister's office, and Libyan Aid.

The training covered such aspects of disaster response as coordination among all sectors involved, communication with the authorities concerned, rescue and triage of casualties, the establishment of triage areas, the use of helicopters in the transfer of casualties away from disaster areas, and transporting casualties to hospitals.

"This is the first time such an exercise has taken place in Libya. I was impressed by the way it was organized. I hope that it will contribute to an improvement in coordination among emergency services," said Dr Hani al-Hadi Hussein, a surgeon at the Tripoli Central Hospital who took part. A protocol and a contingency plan for responding to disasters are now expected to be drawn up.

Training doctors to treat weapon-wounded patients

Although active fighting stopped at the end of 2011, many parts of Libya have been littered with weapons that continue to maim and kill people, especially children.

The ICRC, the Libyan Red Crescent and the Ministry of Health recently held a two-day seminar in Tripoli on the treatment of wounds caused by mines, bullets, shrapnel and other weapons. The seminar, the fifth of its kind, was attended by 120 doctors from various parts of Libya, including many working for the Ministry of Health who have often had to treat conflict casualties with limited resources.

"The Ministry of Health continues to enhance the ability of Libyan doctors to provide the best possible care for injured patients, because what they do can make the difference between life and death," said Health Minister Dr Nuriddin Dughman.

Training in first aid and international humanitarian law

The ICRC has trained more than 80 Libyan Red Crescent volunteers, from over 20 branches around the country, to provide training in first aid. Three train-the-trainers courses have been given so far, in Al-Khums and Al-Zawiyah, western Libya, and in Sabha, in the south. Another course is set to take place in the eastern part of the country before the end of the year.

Two courses on international humanitarian law have been held for 51 officers of the Libyan army and the Libyan shield forces in Tripoli. The aim is to enable the Libyan armed forces to teach international humanitarian law in their training centres and to take it into account in their military operations and doctrine. More such courses are planned for the future.

For further information, please contact:
Saleh Dabbakeh, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +218 919 307 706
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +218 913 066 198
Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 49 or +41 79 244 64 05