16 Aug 11 28 Nov 16

Libya: Treating direct and indirect victims of war

It is more than five months since the beginning of the Libyan conflict. Although the frontlines have now moved several kilometers away from Misrata, heavy shelling continues to dominate daily life in the city. As the seaport is the only remaining option to bring in supplies, the city remains largely enclosed.

MSF continues to support medical facilities, to assist and train health staff who are carrying out most of the work in the relief efforts in Misrata, and to provide mental health care. Today the MSF team is made up of 44 Libyan staff and 30 international staff.

War surgery

Recently, 10 wounded people arrived in less than one hour at Qasr Ahmed Hospital, where MSF surgeons are supporting local medical personnel. Amongst the wounded, two people were severely injured; one with heavy burns on his body and another who was immediately sent to the operation theater for a leg amputation. MSF surgeons worked until 1:30 AM to treat all the wounded.

As war trauma surgery is currently the dominant priority for Libyan medical staff, this is creating significant gaps in other areas of care, such as obstetrical and paediatric care.

Maternal and child health

Another challenge is the lack of paramedical and hospital staff. The Libyan health system was very dependent on foreign nurses, midwives, and other hospital staff who fled once the war began. Junior doctors, medical students, and others with less training volunteered to fill the gaps as best as they could.

In response, MSF initiated a series of trainings on war surgery, hygiene, sterilization, bed-side assistance, and waste management. Misrata’s health facilities are also facing shortages of drugs and medical supplies (e.g. sterilization machines, incubators, monitors for intensive care units, oxygen concentrators, laboratory reagents) due to the long-standing fighting in and around the city.

Image Caption

Ras Tubah Hospital is a former fertility clinic that has been adapted into a maternity and paediatric hospital. MSF created a sterilization room,  an intensive care recovery room for maternity cases, a laboratory, and a waste management area. MSF has also increased the hospital’s bed capacity by setting up new pediatric and newborn wards. The MSF team—a gynecologist, an operating theater nurse, and a pediatric nurse—is supporting medical staff for maternity, gynaecology, and obstetric care. More than 520 deliveries and 80 caesarean sections are carried out each month.

In Ras Tubah Medical Centre, an MSF doctor and nurse are training local staff and are supporting the five-bed intensive care unit, assisting women with maternal care complications.


MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization that has been present in Libya since February 25. To ensure the independence of its medical work, MSF relies solely on private financial donations to fund its activities in Libya and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency, or from any military or politically affiliated group.