Libya: mobile health clinics bring care to those fleeing violence
Since the Libyan uprising began, up to an estimated 220,000 people have fled to Benghazi for sanctuary from cities and towns affected by the conflict – places such as Misrata, Ajdabia, Brega and Ras Lanuf.
Many of these families have been placed in temporary accommodation such as university halls of residence, factory accommodation for migrant workers (who themselves fled the city when Benghazi was attacked in March), run-down holiday villages and sometimes in school buildings.
As the conflict enters its final stages, a large number of families have been able to return home. But some of them can’t – their homes have been destroyed, or there are too many safety risks in their home cities where landmines, unexploded ordnance and even booby traps have been reported.
New arrivals every week
Recent estimates from UNHCR suggest 10,000 people are still living in Benghazi. Moreover, as the fighting shifted to other towns in western Libya, such as Sirte and Ben Walid, new fleeing families arrived in Benghazi.
In the last 3 days alone, 325 newly arrived people from Tawargha (a town near Misrata) have been accommodated in an abandoned factory accommodation block on the outskirts of Benghazi.
When Save the Children staff visited this site they discovered that there is no electricity, running water or flushing toilets here.
Our mobile clinics
In early August we established two mobile health teams in Benghazi. They have proven vital in bringing health services to the these diplaced families, many of whom lack the transport or the local knowledge to attend local clinics or hospitals.
Today I joined the Save the Children health advisor on a visit to the mobile clinic hosted in Sports City, an settlement for displaced families in the centre of Benghazi.
A small clinic has been set up in one of the cabins in the camp. We’ve funded a small team of paediatricians and gynaecologists from Benghazi to run weekly Mother and Child clinics.
Today we joined Dr Ikram and Dr Muna, two local female doctors who have been treating and advising the mothers and women of this camp for almost two months now.
Around 15 mothers and children or expectant mothers come to the clinic each Sunday, seeking treatment for their children or pregnancy check-ups.
The children frequently suffer from coughs, diarrhoea and fevers. Their diets are poor – little meat is available because of its increasing cost and the restricted cooking facilities available in the cabins.
Lack of equipment
The clinic has various drugs supplied by the Libyan diaspora and Friends of the Pharmacy, a local group who fundraise for medical supplies.
But the doctors’ equipment is basic and in short supply. Save the Children is expecting a large delivery (£106,500) of medical supplies in the next week and will provide this clinic with the necessary drugs and equipment.
Hiam is 19 years old and comes from Ajdabia. She fled to Benghazi with her husband, parents and extended family in April.
Haim’s first pregnancy
She was four months pregnant at the time, so it was best for her to be with her family.
This was her first pregnancy and she had not received any pre-natal care when she arrived in Benghazi.
She started visiting the clinic when it opened in August. Without Save the Children’s mobile clinic, Hiam would have struggled to find the necessary support and care. “I’m limited to the confines of the camp; I wouldn’t know where to go”.
Hiam was tired and weak in her pregnancy. “The doctors told me to take care of myself and to look after my diet”. They also gave her advice about the birth and reassured her about the delivery.
Four days ago Hiam gave birth to a healthy boy, who she and her husband have named Fiaz.
“I’m thankful for the clinic and the support of Save the Children. I ask for more upgrading of the health services in Libya and around the world, and for more help for people needing treatment for diseases, the people really are in need.”
More clinics needed
The truth is that other towns and cities have families like Hiam’s, living in temporary accommodation without proper facilities for children and mothers, and they don’t have mobile clinics supporting them.
Save the Children needs the funding to ensure that more mothers like Hiam have safe and healthy births and that more doctors like Muna and Ikram are assisted in reaching the most needy and vulnerable people.
This post was written by Jenny Humphreys, Officer in Charge, Libya Response