Libya: After War, MSF?s Medical Work Still Sorely Needed

MSF continues to provide medical care and mental health assistance to migrants, internally displaced persons, and prisoners in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Misrata.

Libya 2011 © Benoit Finck/MSF

An MSF psychiatrist conducts a training session with psychologists in Misrata.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to provide medical care to migrants, internally displaced persons, and prisoners in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Misrata. MSF teams are also running a mental health program after many months of violence in the country.

MSF expects mental health needs to increase over the next few months, with levels remaining high over the long term. According to MSF, only an early, focused treatment strategy will help prevent war-related trauma from becoming generally prevalent and therefore more difficult to treat.

Numerous and Varied Needs

MSF continues to work in four camps in Tripoli that house a total of 4,000 migrants of African origin and internally displaced persons belonging to the Tawargha minority. Teams provide basic healthcare and offer psychological support in individual and group sessions. Each day, three MSF nurses and two psychologists are present in the camps.

MSF has provided more than 200 patients with individual psychological support and organized 33 group activities in these camps since September. Residents in the camps are still subjected to intimidation, theft, and assaults. Many exhibit signs of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress, and have problems sleeping. 

In both Tripoli and Misrata, MSF provided 20 Libyan psychologists with a series of training courses on war-related psychological reactions. While mental health training is available in Libya, the country does not have a suitable training system in place and practitioners there are overwhelmed as a result of having to deal with the many and varied conflict-related psychological disorders they see.

In Schools and Prisons

The population of Misrata has had to live through more than six months at the center of the conflict. MSF is working in four prisons, about 15 schools, and six hospitals or health centers. In the prisons, MSF treats wounded patients; performs surgeries, including skin grafts; and follows up on orthopedic treatment of fractures. MSF has dressed close to 2,000 wounds and carried out 40 plastic or orthopedic surgeries in Misrata over the last four weeks.

One component of MSF's mental health activities in Misrata is the involvement of communities, primarily through women’s associations. Psychologists provide individuals with direct care or train them to be able to form their own support groups and identify and refer people who require individual psychological care. 

More than 450 patients have received individual psychological follow-up as a result. Community-members have formed close to 100 different therapeutic community groups, to which MSF has given basic training in mental healthcare, since the program began. 

MSF has been present in Libya since February 24, working in places including Benghazi, Tripoli, Misrata, Zintan, Yefran, Syrte, and Zawiyah and on the Tunisian border. It also coordinated the evacuation by boat of 135 patients from Misrata to Tunisia and provided a total of over 12,000 medical consultations.