Libya: MSF Reiterates Calls for Urgent, Unhindered Access to Wounded

MSF is pursuing a variety of measures to assist people affected by the violence in western Libya, regardless of their affiliation or origin.

Geneva, April 1, 2011As the conflict continues in Libya, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is pursuing a variety of measures to assist people affected by the violence in the western part of country, regardless of their affiliation or origin. To date, the organization has been denied access to the west of Libya, despite receiving reports of urgent humanitarian needs.

MSF is seeking to scale up its assistance by reinforcing its team on the ground, sending additional medical supplies, and facilitating the evacuation of wounded and sick patients to safe treatment areas.

“We are currently looking at all possibilities to increase support to health facilities in order to respond to urgent medical needs, both inside and outside government-controlled areas,” said Laurent Ligozat, MSF’s director of operations. “As the frontline keeps shifting, our priority is to gain access to areas where the needs are greatest.”

In the city of Misrata, people are currently caught in a battle zone. According to several worrying reports received by MSF, the city’s hospital has been closed for several days due to heavy shelling. Wounded people are being referred to the two remaining clinics that are still functioning, which are reportedly overflowing with severely injured patients. Medical staff, working in dangerous conditions, are said to be desperately short of medical supplies and facing enormous difficulties treating patients.  

“Despite several appeals and ongoing negotiations with the authorities, MSF has been denied access to the western part of Libya on the grounds that there are no medical needs,” said Ligozat. “However, the situation in Misrata is reported to be critical, while medical facilities in other cities are also said to be overstretched.”

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, personnel and vehicles carrying patients.

MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to populations in distress. MSF’s response is based solely on the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence and on the medical needs of patients.

MSF in Libya:

After withdrawing from eastern Libya on March 15, due to worsening security conditions, MSF teams returned to the eastern city of Benghazi on March 24.  They are providing medicine and medical supplies to health facilities, including anesthetics and surgical materials for wounded patients, in coordination with the Libyan Medical Committee. So far, 44 tons of supplies have arrived in the country, and more is on the way. MSF teams on the ground are being reinforced with additional medical personnel who will provide nursing care training. On March 21, MSF sent a shipment of surgical kits for 300 wounded patients to the hospital in Misrata.

In Ras Adjir, 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.