International Medical Corps’ emergency response team has reached the Libya/Egypt border and begun assessing the humanitarian needs of those fleeing violence in Libya. The team is prepositioning basic medical and hygiene supplies in the border town of Salloum. Those supplies will be used in Salloum as well as in eastern Libya. International Medical Corps will provide emergency medical care as needed.
In preparation for an escalation in violence and potential displacement, International Medical Corps teams of doctors will enter eastern Libya over the weekend to assess needs inside the country and deliver emergency medical services.
With calls from Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi to take up arms, the fear is that escalating hostilities will lead to more casualties.
“We are extremely concerned that violence has continued to escalate in and around the capital Tripoli and other areas of the country – and that this violence is only going to get much worse,” said Rabih Torbay, International Medical Corps’ Vice President of International Operations.
Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago in Libya and protests against his rule started one week ago in Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi. Clashes between protestors and Qaddafi loyalists intensified February 25 in and around Tripoli, signaling that this could be the deadliest in the string of uprisings in the Arab world. There are reports of hundreds new casualties from the recent fighting. The number of those killed in Libya is thought to be in the thousands, while Internet has been cut off and foreign journalists are not allowed to enter the country. There are serious concerns about major military actions in the eastern part of the country, which could trigger a large number of refugees and internally displaced.
The United Nations has called on neighboring countries in Africa and Europe not to turn away those escaping violence in Libya, while the Egyptian military set up a field hospital on the Egyptian side of the border at El-Salloum.
Italy and Egypt are among the countries expected to receive an influx of asylum-seekers. The Italian Foreign Minister estimates that Italy could see as many as 300,000 Libyans fleeing to Italy. There are an estimated 1.5 million Egyptians working in Libya and the Egyptian security forces estimate that some 10,000 Egyptians are already gathering at the border between the two countries.