Getting critical material to health facilities despite insecurity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Benghazi and on the Tunisia-Libya border are still working to access areas of western Libya, where medical needs are reportedly critical. Inside Libya, the insecure and volatile situation is not allowing the team to reach areas in the country’s west. “We managed to reach health facilities in Ajdabiya and Brega but were unable to continue to Ras Lanuf, which is approximately 450 kilometres west of Benghazi,” says Anne Chatelain, MSF emergency medical coordinator in Benghazi. Currently, MSF medical materials and supplies are being channeled to areas where the ongoing violence has left people with the most needs. At first glance, the buildings that make up the central pharmacy in Benghazi may seem relatively quiet. But inside, Libyan medical personnel, pharmacy managers and young volunteers are working tirelessly.  Since violent clashes started in Libya on Feb. 17, they have been supplying the entire network of medical facilities in eastern Libya with urgently needed medicine and medical materials. MSF has so far channeled approximately 22 tonnes of medicine and medical materials through this supply lifeline, including surgical sets and burn kits, dressing materials, anesthetics and antibiotics. Intended to address both first-aid needs and surgical care, the material is distributed to people in areas where fighting has left the most needs.

Libya © Jehan Bseiso
Libyan medical staff and volunteers work with MSF teams in Benghazi to organize for distribution MSF medicine and medical materials, including surgical sets, burn kits and antibiotics.
At present, the medical supply line from Benghazi manages to reach out to a range of health facilities, but the volatility of the situation, coupled with shifting frontlines, means this supply chain is getting dangerously long. “One of our main concerns is that we must find a way to position the medical supplies closer to where the needs may be,” says Simon Burroughs, MSF emergency coordinator in Benghazi. A steady stream of ambulances and other unmarked vehicles drive up to the central pharmacy to load up with antibiotics, bone fixators, anesthesia and other urgently needed materials – like the ones supplied by MSF – to treat the wounded in areas where the fighting has been most intense and as far as 1,000 kilometres west of Benghazi. Highly insecure roads mean drivers take great risks in trying to reach medical facilities, often having to drive for hours in order to deliver the supplies.
Libya © Jehan Bseiso
Ambulances and unmarked vehicles take medical supplies from Benghazi to health facilities up to 1,000 km westward.
As the situation in Libya continues to develop, respect for medical facilities, vehicles and personnel by all parties is paramount and is the only way patients will be able to receive urgent medical care. In addition to continuing donations of medical supplies, and its ongoing assessment of the needs of health facilities in and around Benghazi, MSF also has medical personnel on the ground ready to support where needed. When fresh clashes west of Ras Lanuf generated another wave of wounded people, an MSF operating room nurse spent the night in the surgical ward of Ajdabiya hospital 160 kilometres from Benghazi assisting Libyan doctors with 10 surgeries; most of these patients had received gunshot wounds. Overall, health facilities have been able to deal with the influx of wounded but they are facing shortages in the supply of specific medical materials like anaesthesia and surgical sets. From Ajdabiya to Brega and beyond, hospitals, polyclinics and basic health centres are all dependant on the central pharmacy for their supplies. “We were supplying medical facilities even before the events. The only difference now is that we are working 24 hours, seven days a week,” says a Libyan doctor. Currently, 11 additional tonnes of MSF medicine and medical materials is on the way to Benghazi. Egyptian trucks carry out supplies past a no man’s land into Libya, where they are offloaded into Libyan trucks. Then they can be dispatched to areas where the ongoing fighting has created supply shortages and needs.

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