Libya: Concern For Plight of Wounded Cut Off From Aid

MSF Calls For Unhindered Access to Medical Care

As conflict intensifies in Libya, MSF is extremely concerned for the wounded and calls for unhindered access to medical assistance, irrespective of political considerations.

GENEVA/NEW YORK, MARCH 12, 2011 – As conflict intensifies in Libya, the international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is extremely concerned for wounded people caught in violent clashes, and calls for their urgent, unhindered access to medical assistance, irrespective of any political considerations.

For the past three weeks MSF teams based on the Tunisian border and in the eastern city of Benghazi have been providing medical supplies to health facilities in Libya, and have actively attempted to access areas in the west of the country, where fighting is taking place.

In several conflict zones, such as Zawiyah and Misrata, large numbers of people are cut off from any external assistance, amidst reports of critical medical needs and shortages of medicines and other medical materials.

“We are deeply concerned with the denial of access to medical care and the plight of patients in public health facilities within government-controlled areas,” said Bruno Jochum, MSF director of operations.

As an emergency medical humanitarian organization, MSF reaffirms the importance of responding effectively to people’s urgent medical needs, regardless of their affiliations.

“Our main challenge today is to gain immediate access to the people affected by violence inside Libya,” said Jochum. “Despite ongoing intense fighting, our medical teams, which have been deliberately blocked at the Tunisian border town of Ras Ajdir for weeks now, have not seen any injured patients authorized to cross into Tunisia. It is essential that people have the possibility to flee combat zones to find refuge in safe areas inside Libya or abroad.”

Adherence to medical ethics and international humanitarian law by all belligerents—including respect for medical facilities, vehicles and personnel—is the only way patients will receive the urgent medical care they need.

MSF continues to assist the civilian population through the delivery of medical supplies in Libya. Since the first MSF team was able to enter eastern Libya on February 24, 22 tons of medical supplies have been distributed to areas where the most acute needs have been identified. Eleven more tons of medical materials are ready to be delivered where ongoing fighting has created supply shortages.