Humanitarian groups boost aid to assist casualties and civilians displaced in Libyan conflict

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 31 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2086
  1. John Zarocostas
  1. 1Geneva

International relief agencies and charity groups have stepped up the flow of humanitarian supplies—including medicines and food—to assist casualties, and tens of thousands of civilians displaced by the escalation of hostilities in Libya between government forces and opposition rebels.

The surge in aid includes efforts to distribute urgently needed medical supplies in cities where fierce fighting is ongoing, especially in the western part of the country, and where, according to some estimates, up to 700 000 people could have limited access to health services.

Aid groups are looking at various ways to dispatch urgently needed drugs and surgical kits to some cities that have been under siege for weeks, such as Misrata, and they are boosting assistance to hospitals and clinics in the east.

The World Health Organization has been working closely with the Egyptian ministry of health to facilitate medical evacuations from Ajdabiya to Benghazi and from Benghazi to Tobruk, Fadela Chaib, a WHO spokeswoman said.

She said, to avoid overcrowding at hospitals in Benghazi, a total of 43 postoperative cases had been transferred to Tobruk and Egypt, as of 28 March.

Mrs Chaib said WHO is also supporting an emergency clinic at the border crossing along with the Egyptian ministry of health and the International Medical Corps aid group, and noted that on 27 March 232 injured people crossed the border, including 187 Libyans most of whom had gunshot wounds.

In the past week, nearly 11 000 patients sought medical consultations at border clinics, WHO said.

The Global Health Agency said it has also established a medical training centre in Tobruk and already 16 medical staff have been trained on advanced life support, first aid, and mass casualty. An additional 150 medical staff from key hospitals in eastern Libya, it said, have registered for forthcoming sessions, it said.

In a report on the Libyan crisis, Unicef said “The situation of civilians, particularly children and women, in the besieged Misrata and other locations where active fighting continues, remains of grave concern.”

It said the International Medical Corps, the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, and the International Committee of the Red Cross now have access to eastern Libya, delivering critical medical supplies in Ajdabiya and Benghazi.

Aid also includes the hauling of food shipments by the World Food Programme and other essentials to Benghazi in eastern Libya where recent fighting has displaced thousands of families.

A World Food Programme official told the BMJ that the agency was stepping up relief convoys to eastern Libya and, in the next few days, it and the Libyan Red Crescent, its partner in the operation, would distribute food to 7000 internally displaced people.

The agency is also positioning 10 900 tons of food around Libya and in border areas, including wheat flour, oil, sugar and pulses, enough to feed 652 000 people for 30 days.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2086