2011 was a traumatic, terrifying but ultimately liberating year for the people of Libya as an armed uprising became a nationwide conflict which brought an end to Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s 42 year long dictatorship. Official estimates suggest up to 30,000 people were killed during the conflict with nearly 800,000 people fleeing across borders into neighbouring countries. Years of underinvestment in Libya’s health system, coupled with thousands of injuries from the war continue to place a heavy burden on the nation’s health infrastructure.
Throughout the conflict communities faced shortages of food, water, fuel, electricity and access to adequate health care. Health facilities were stretched to their limits, while supply chains for medications and medical supplies were cut and large numbers of foreign nurses departed the country, leaving facilities with urgent shortages of these critical staff and medical supplies.
International Medical Corps was among the first respondents to the crisis in Libya arriving within days of the uprising in Benghazi. As access permitted and needs were identified International Medical Corps teams expanded activities in a country-wide response, ultimately deploying 267 doctors & nurses and providing more than 95,000 medical consultations. We were also active in the Egyptian and Tunisian border regions that received large numbers of Libyans and third country nationals fleeing the violence.
As the conflict has now ended, the country is on the path to rebuilding. International Medical Corps has remained in Libya, shifting its programmes from emergency services to longer term projects aimed at supporting efforts to eliminate major gaps in health care and restore the necessary infrastructure. To do this, International Medical Corps is working with the Libyan health sector to address the primary health, mental health and rehabilitation needs of a country emerging from war.
International Medical Corps is taking a multi-sectoral approach to address GBV through integrating services into existing programmes. International Medical Corps is training local health workers in the prevention and response to GBV. In addition, International Medical Corps is working to increase awareness within the general population and local and government institutions.
International Medical Corps is also working to support the Ministry of Social Affairs to improve access to social welfare services for children and families at risk of or exposed to violence. This is being implemented through the establishment of clear training curricula and procedural guidelines for social workers.
Among the first challenges our Emergency Response Teams encountered was a chronic shortage of nurses, as thousands of foreign nurses had fled the country for safety. In partnership with the Jordan Health Aid Society, International Medical Corps immediately deployed volunteer nurses to health centres across eastern Libya and rapidly mobilised them to major population centres throughout the country as access permitted. Volunteer nurses trained the local counterparts while working alongside them; a key programme activity that continues today.
At the country’s borders and within Libya, we supplied those displaced by the fighting with essential relief items, including blankets, bottled water and food. Recognising the danger posed by communicable diseases, our sanitation and hygiene specialists constructed latrines and washing stations in transit camps along the Tunisia borders.
As the weeks and months of fighting passed International Medical Corps worked as close to the front line as possible, providing emergency treatment to those injured in the conflict, and medicines and supplies to besieged towns and cities. In Misurata, inaccessible by road, we evacuated nearly 500 injured civilians by boat. International Medical Corps mobile field hospitals treated the wounded from battles in Tripoli, the Western Mountains, Bani Walid, Sabha, Jufrah and Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.
International Medical Corps UK recognises the invaluable support of the following European donors to make our work possible.
Primary Health Care & Nursing Support