Health crisis looming in Benghazi: medical supplies scarce for Haftar’s Libyan National Army

By on January 17, 2017

As internal tensions continue to rise in Libya, the government led by Abdullah al-Thanni and supported by General Haftar’s Libyan National Army in the East of the country is facing a dire health situation.

Eastern Libya once-efficient health system is in a state of crisis. Hospitals are closed, or else struggle to function because of a lack of experienced medical staff and shortages of essential medicines and equipment, in particular insulin and dialysis equipment.

Many Benghazi and Tobruk hospitals were previously staffed by nurses from overseas, but most left Libya after the war against Gaddafi in 2011 and the subsequent armed conflict between Islamist militias and the ‘Operation Dignity’ forces, led by Haftar.

“Hospitals are closed, acute shortages of medicines, equipment and staff are putting patients at risk in Benghazi”

Acute shortages of medicines, equipment and staff are putting patients at risk in Benghazi, the Health Minister of Tobruk government said last week as Haftar’s army continues to advance on Islamist fighter positions in the embattled city. Local hospitals are unable to accommodate the large number of wounded soldiers, pushing al-Thanni’s minister of health, Reida el Oakley, to urge world powers to unfreeze some of the Libyan funds abroad to replenish Tobruk’s depleted health budget.

“Italy and Germany already offered high quality of medical care but General Haftar didn’t answer”

Oakley said there was an urgent need for mobile clinics and trauma kits, as well as basic equipment such as gloves and gauze. A shortage of blood bags meant people trying to give blood had not been able to, he recently told journalists in Tunis. There was also a “desperate need for doctors and nurses”, he said as many foreign medical staff left more than a year ago. The city has fewer than 700 hospital beds, compared with 3,000 at the start of 2014.

Western Countries like Italy and Germany already offered to provide high quality medical care and assistance to Libyans in Benghazi but General Haftar reportedly didn’t reply to those offers, waiting instead for Egyptian or French support, showing his pattern of foreign allegiances.

Last week Khalifa Haftar toured Russia’s aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov anchored off the Libyan coast and held a video call with Russian Defense Minister Shoigu about taking actions against jihadist groups. Haftar was also waiting to receive medical supplies for Libyan Army soldiers and civilians from Moscow, but according to local sources in the foreign media department of the government in Tobruk, Russians postponed the delivery.

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