International Medical Corps’ emergency response team has reached Benghazi, Libya
International Medical Corps’ emergency response team has reached Benghazi, Libya and is assessing needs of those affected by the violence as well as health structures serving the local population. The team is providing emergency medical care and distributng critcal supplies to local health structures. An additonal International Medical Corps team is preparing to deploy to Tunisia which is experiencing a large influx of refugees fleeing the violence.
“We are extremely concerned that as the conflict escalates in and around the capital [city of] Tripoli and other areas of the country – that the violence is only going to get much worse, leading to large numbers of casualties and further displacement,” said Rabih Torbay, International Medical Corps’ vice president of International Operations.
International Medical Corps undertook an assessment of hospitals in Benghazi as well as the central medical supply warehouse for all of eastern Libya and a number of local pharmacies. The team identified a need for medicines and medical supplies as the supply chain from Tripoli has been affected by the crisis. Urgently needed supplies include: items and drugs for surgeries, acute illnesses and lab testing; as well as antibiotics and anesthetics. In overall assessments of Benghazi, the team also heard reports of the need for orthopedic and reconstructive surgeons. International Medical Corps teams will continue to provide emergency medical services and assess needs throughout Benghazi in preparation for an increase in violence.
International Medical Corps is also concerned about a shortage in food supplies as existing stockpiles could dangerously diminish in one-two weeks should the supply chain not recover due to the crisis.
On Monday the UN refugee agency called the current crisis a humanitarian emergency and said nearly 100,000 people have fled Libya’s fighting to neighboring Tunisia and Egypt – a number that rose over the weekend following calls from Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi to take up arms.
Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago in Libya and protests against his rule started two weeks ago in Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi. Clashes between protestors and Qaddafi loyalists intensified February 25 in and around Tripoli, signaling that this could be the deadliest in the string of uprisings in the Arab world. There are reports of hundreds new casualties from the recent fighting. The number of those killed in Libya is thought to be in the thousands, while Internet has been cut off and foreign journalists are not allowed to enter the country. There are serious concerns about major military actions in the eastern part of the country, which could trigger a large number of refugees and internally displaced.The United Nations has called on neighboring countries in Africa and Europe not to turn away those escaping violence in Libya, while the Egyptian military set up a field hospital on the Egyptian side of the border at El-Salloum. Italy and Egypt are among the countries expected to receive an influx of asylum-seekers.
The Italian Foreign Minister estimates that Italy could see as many as 300,000 Libyans fleeing to Italy. There are an estimated 1.5 million Egyptians working in Libya and the Egyptian security forces estimate that some 10,000 Egyptians are already gathering at the border between the two countries.
Since its incepton 25 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster, and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training.