In aftermath of war, MSF’s medical work still sorely needed in Libya

Teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continue to provide medical care to migrants, internally displaced persons, and prisoners in the cities of Tripoli and Misrata, this in addition to a major mental health component in the country resulting from many months of violence.

MSF expects that these mental health requirements will increase over the next few months with levels remaining high over the longer term. According to MSF, only an early, focused treatment strategy will help prevent war-related trauma from becoming generally prevalent and therefore more difficult to treat.

Numerous and varied needs
In Tripoli, MSF is still working in four camps housing a total of 4,000 migrants of African origin and internally displaced persons belonging to the Tawargha minority. There, it provides basic health care and psychological support on both an individual and group basis. Each day, three nurses and two psychologists tour the camps, dispensing basic health care and psychological support.

Since September, over 200 patients have received individual psychological support, and 33 group activities have been organized in these camps, where residents are still being subjected to intimidation, theft and assaults. Many of them exhibit signs of depression, sleep problems, anxiety or post-traumatic stress.

In both Tripoli and Misrata, MSF provided 20 Libyan psychologists with a series of training courses on war-related psychological reactions because, while mental health training is still being given in Libya, the country does not have a suitable training system in place and practitioners there are overwhelmed as a result of having to deal with the many and varied conflict-related psychological disorders they see.

In schools and prisons
Misrata is a city where the entire population has had to live through more than six months at the centre of the conflict. There, MSF is working in four prisons, some 15 schools, and six hospitals or health centres. In the prisons, MSF follows up with treating the wounded, performs surgeries, including skin grafts, and follows up with the orthopaedic treatment of fractures. In the past four weeks, MSF has dressed close to 2,000 wounds and carried out 40 plastic or orthopaedic surgeries in Misrata.

In Misrata, one of the components of the mental health activities there is based on a community-wide approach, involving primarily women’s associations. The aim of the program is to provide them with direct psychological assistance or to train them to be able to form their own support groups themselves, and to identify and refer individuals requiring individual psychological care.

Since the program began, over 450 patients have received individual psychological follow-up, and close to 100 different therapeutic community groups have been formed and been given basic training in mental health.

MSF has been present in Libya since February 24, working in places such as Benghazi, Tripoli, Misrata, Zintan, Yefran, Syrte, and Zawiyah and on the Tunisian border. It also coordinated the sea-borne evacuation of 135 patients from Misrata to Tunisia and provided a total of over 12,000 medical consultations.