International Medical Corps’ emergency response teams in Libya and at the Libya border in Egypt and Tunisia are conducting ongoing assessments of health needs and providing critical medical supplies. The teams have found an increase in the number of women and families fleeing the crisis on the Libya-Tunisia border. They have also found that a shortage of nurses is a key concern in eastern Libya, and water/sanitation/hygiene services and psychosocial support are needed in camps on the Libya-Tunisia border.
After days of air strikes, Qadaffi forces have renewed their attacks on parts of eastern Libya, including Benghazi, where International Medical Corps is working to support health facilities.
In Tunisia, International Medical Corps is coordinating with a local partner to implement comprehensive health services at a transit camp. Based on assessments, the team found there are inadequate latrines and washing areas in transit camps serving the thousands of refugees fleeing the violence, posing a risk of communicable diseases spreading. International Medical Corps is working to begin latrine construction activities and also plans to distribute hygiene kits with the help of a local Tunisian organization. In addition, the teams have found a widespread need for psychosocial support – an area where International Medical Corps has significant experience, including in Arabic-speaking countries.
“We are deeply concerned that thousands of people continue to cross the border into Tunisia each day, and should the situation inside Libya continue to deteriorate we could see more than 1 million Libyans and migrant workers attempting to enter,” said Rabih Torbay, Vice President of International Operations for International Medical Corps. “We also remain very worried about conditions for those inside Libya and stand prepared to respond as soon as we are granted access. In the east, hundreds of nurses left their positions when their payments from Tripoli were cut off, creating serious gaps in the provision of critical care, including in pediatrics and gynecology.”
The International Medical Corps team at the Egypt/Libya border is providing medical care to those fleeing the violence and delivering critical supplies. The team continues to advocate for contingency planning mechanisms and coordination with all involved agencies to prepare for any increase in arrivals across the Egypt/Libya border. The team is also planning to distribute hygiene kits and other supplies.
The International Medical Corps team in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, also identified a need for medicines and medical supplies, such as surgical kits, as the supply chain from Tripoli has been affected by the crisis.
Through a $1 million grant from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), International Medical Corps will address immediate health care gaps in Libya. In Benghazi, International Medical Corps has been asked by governorate’s health committee to carry out assessments for all health units, primary care centers, and polyclinics, to determine which are open and at what capacity.
International Medical Corps’ team assisted in facilitating the first meeting of a Medical Supply Committee to establish a unified mechanism for reporting needed medical supplies and coordinating donated items. The team is also is working to preposition essential medical supplies (such as surgical instrument sets and basic health care equipment) and non-food items (including hygiene kits, blankets and water containers) donated through gift-in-kind partners MAP International and Americares.
The UN refugee agency has called the current crisis a humanitarian emergency. The UN estimates that nearly 230,000 people have fled Libya’s fighting to neighboring Tunisia, Egypt, Niger, and Algeria, and warns that up to 600,000 people inside Libya could require humanitarian assistance.
Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago in Libya and protests against his rule started two weeks ago in Benghazi. Clashes between protestors and Qaddafi loyalists intensified February 25 in and around Tripoli. The number of those killed in Libya is thought to be in the thousands, while Internet has been cut off and many 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 an even greater number of casualties, refugees and internally displaced.