Libya: Medecins Sans Frontieres evacuates over 70 war-wounded by boat from misrata

April 4, 2011

Libya: Medecins Sans Frontieres evacuates over 70 war-wounded by boat from misrata © Alison Criado-Perez

SFAX, TUNISIA/GENEVA, The international medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) evacuated 71 patients by boat on Sunday 3 April from the Libyan city of Misrata, where ongoing violence has overwhelmed medical facilities with the injured.

“We managed to dock at Misrata on Sunday afternoon, despite intense fighting in the city over the past few days” said Helmy Mekaoui, an MSF doctor who coordinated the medical evacuation. “The violence caused an influx of wounded people and it was fortunate we could be there and get them onboard”. Among the evacuated patients were three people on life support, 11 people suffering from major trauma, and many others with abdominal wounds and open fractures. Intensive medical care was provided on board as the boat sailed to Tunisia.

The hospital in Misrata has reportedly been bombarded Sunday early morning, while the remaining functioning clinics are overflowing with severely injured patients and are desperately running short of medical supplies.

In Misrata, six tons of emergency medical materials—including 300 surgical kits to perform 1000 surgical operations, drugs, sterilization materials, and intravenous fluids—were donated to the Libyan Health Committee in Misrata, in order to help health facilities in the city cope with the influx of war-wounded people.

The boat arrived early today at the port-city of Sfax, Tunisia and the patients were transferred to hospitals to receive urgent medical care. The MSF medical team on board was composed of seven doctors, three nurses, and one psychologist, including seven Tunisian medical personnel who volunteered to be part of the operation. Upon arrival in Sfax, the Tunisian health authorities organized the transfer of the patients to a dozen medical facilities. Thanks to their support as well as the efforts of the medical staff in Misrata who risked their safety, the evacuation and medical treatment of the patients was made possible.

The evacuation was carried out independently from all the parties involved in the conflict in accordance with the organisation’s principles of neutrality and impartiality.

As conflict continues inside Libya, MSF is scaling up its assistance to people affected by the violence, regardless of their affiliation or origin. The organization is reinforcing its teams on the ground, sending additional medical supplies, and facilitating the evacuation of wounded and sick patients. However, it remains very concerning that many injured people reportedly cannot safely access life-saving medical care without further risking their life.

MSF reiterates its call on all belligerents to allow unhindered access to medical assistance for all Libyans affected by the violence. MSF also calls for the respect of medical facilities, healthcare personnel, and vehicles transporting patients.

MSF in Libya

In the eastern city of Benghazi, MSF teams are providing medicine and medical supplies to health facilities, including anaesthetics and surgical materials for wounded patients, in coordination with the Libyan Medical Committee. So far, 44 tons of supplies have arrived in the country, with more on the way. MSF teams on the ground are being reinforced with additional medical personnel who will provide nursing care training. On 21 March, MSF sent a shipment of surgical kits for 300 wounded patients to the hospital in Misrata.

In Ras Ajdir, Tunisia, at the border with Libya, MSF teams have been providing psychological support to people fleeing the conflict. They are also working in the transit camp at Choucha, where people are awaiting repatriation or resettlement. From the onset of violence in Libya, MSF’s priority has been to access areas with the largest needs.

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