Libya: MSF Evacuates 71 War-Wounded from Misrata By Boat

On Sunday, MSF evacuated 71 patients by boat from the Libyan city of Misrata, where ongoing violence has overwhelmed medical facilities with the wounded.

Sfax, Tunisia/Geneva, April 4, 2011 — The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) evacuated 71 patients by boat Sunday, April 3 from the Libyan city of Misrata, where ongoing violence has overwhelmed medical facilities with the wounded.

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, where it arrived this morning.

“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.”

The hospital in Misrata reportedly came under bombardment early Sunday. Remaining functional health clinics in the city are overflowing with severely injured patients and are running desperately short of medical supplies.

MSF also donated six tons of emergency medical materials to the Libyan Health Committee in Misrata—including surgical kits for 1,000 operations, drugs, sterilization materials, and intravenous fluids—in order to help health facilities in the city cope with the influx of war-wounded people.

The boat arrived early today at the Tunisian port city of Sfax and the patients were transferred to hospitals to receive urgent medical care. The 11-person MSF team on board—among them seven Tunisian medical personnel who volunteered to be part of the operation—included seven doctors, three nurses, and one psychologist. Tunisian health authorities organized the transfer of the patients to several health facilities. The medical evacuation and treatment of the patients was made possible thanks to the support and efforts of medical personnel in Misrata, who risked their safety.

The evacuation was carried out independently from all the parties involved in the conflict, in accordance with MSF’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 lives.

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.