International Medical Corps’ emergency response teams in eastern Libya and transit camps at the Libyan border in Tunisia are conducting ongoing assessments of local health needs and providing critical medical supplies.
In Tunisia, the assessment team found a shortage of latrines and washing areas in transit camps serving the thousands per day fleeing the violence. The lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities could result in the spread of communicable diseases. Since Thursday, March 3rd, the team also found a marked decrease in the number of people crossing the border; interviews were conducted with those that did cross the border to assess humanitarian needs in western Libya. International Medical Corps’ team will continue to position themselves on the Tunisia/Libya border in preparation for any deterioration of the situation inside Libya. For those camped along the border area, the team found the need for psychosocial first-aid and hygiene services.
International Medical Corps’ team identified that some 25,000 Bangladeshis and Eritreans are on the Tunisian side of the border and are in need of assistance. Also near the Tunisia/Libya border, the team identified approximately 4,500 Bangladeshi’s, who are stuck with limited access to basic services. The team also visited Choucha, a transit camp run by the Tunisian military, approximately seven kilometres from the border. UNHCR has set up tents and estimates that there are approximately 4,000 people currently in Choucha.
An International Medical Corps emergency response team is also in Benghazi in eastern Libya and has been assessing needs of those affected by the violence as well as distributing critical supplies to health structures serving the local population. The team assessed needs at the hospital in Al Bayda, the third largest city in Libya and reported a need for specialized nursing staff. This reinforced assessment findings in other areas of eastern Libya of a shortage of nursing staff at all levels of healthcare in the region.
The International Medical Corps team has made an agreement with the health committee for the Benghazi governorate to conduct assessments for health units, primary health care centers, and polyclinics in the region to determine which are open, and at what capacity. The results will help to determine the gaps which need to be filled with supplies, equipment and personnel.
The team in eastern Libya has also been delivering medicines and medical supplies to health facilities and blankets to migrant workers from South Asia who are stuck at the port. They have visited a number of health facilities and met with health officials and professionals throughout Benghazi governorate to better understand the needs.
International Medical Corps undertook an assessment of hospitals in Benghazi as well as the central medical supply warehouse for all of eastern Libya and a number of local pharmacies. The team identified a need for medicines and medical supplies as the supply chain from Tripoli has been affected by the crisis. Urgently needed supplies include: items and drugs for surgeries, acute illnesses and lab testing; as well as antibiotics and anesthetics. In overall assessments of Benghazi, the team also heard reports of the need for orthopedic and reconstructive surgeons.
International Medical Corps is also concerned about a shortage in food supplies as existing stockpiles could dangerously diminish in one-two weeks should the supply chain not recover due to the crisis.
The UN refugee agency called the current crisis a humanitarian emergency and IOM is reporting that over 204,000 people have fled Libya’s fighting to neighboring Tunisia, Egypt and Nigeria – a number that has risen following calls from Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi to take up arms.
Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago in Libya and protests against his rule started two weeks 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.