As Ibrahim turned 22, he landed at Pozzallo, southern Italy, along with 244 other people. Just before his medical examination in our Mobile Clinic, we realised it was his birthday, and we gave him a smile and wished him a “happy birthday”. Ibrahim was really touched. Sometimes, even the smallest gesture is enough.
“Thank you, that was the best present I could have wished for.”
Ibrahim was happy because he had managed to cross the desert, pass through Libya, and make it across the sea alive. But also because he had finally found some humanity in the person in front of him.
Over the last year and a half, EMERGENCY staff have been present at landings of migrants and refugees in southern Italy, ready to provide basic care to those who arrive via the central Mediterranean route. Those we help are frequently dehydrated and undernourished, and often bear clear signs of torture and trauma, usually sustained during their journey through Libya. The people who face these journeys leave their home country, head to Libya, and cross the Strait of Sicily. They have no other option: they’re fleeing from war, dictatorships, and poverty. That’s why we will be there to provide assistance for as long as we are needed.
In the last few days, fighting has intensified on the outskirts of Derna, Libya. Several individuals who were wounded in the fighting were immediately transferred to our hospital in Gernada, where our surgical team is now treating their injuries.
Since October 2015, EMERGENCY has been operating a Surgical Center in Gernada, Al Bayda Province, Libya. The Center offers free, high-quality surgical and trauma treatment for war victims. It has already treated over 700 patients and performed more than 100 surgical operations.
Located approximately 43 miles from Derna, and 93 miles from Benghazi, the Surgical Center is intended to become a reference point not only for those living nearby, but also for patients coming from across the country.
“Despite the uncertainty of the future,” says Emanuele, EMERGENCY’s Program Coordinator in Libya, “EMERGENCY continues to treat war victims in its hospital in Gernada.”
The war in Libya, which began in 2011, severely affected the national healthcare system: due to a widespread lack of resources and staff, access to basic and specialised healthcare is difficult for large portions of the population.
In addition to the provision of surgical and medical care, the Center aims to contribute to rebuilding the capacity and sustainability of the Libyan national health system by offering professional training programs on patient stabilization, treatment, and trauma management.
70 Libyan national staff are currently being trained by a team of ten international healthcare professionals. The training will cover not only the provision of high-level medical care, but also hygiene and day-to-day hospital management.
In our hospitals, we give great importance to the training of local staff. For EMERGENCY, providing sustainable healthcare means training medical and non-medical staff who can continue to provide free, high-quality healthcare after we leave.
“I was shocked,” said Khalid, one of our mediators in Sicily. “At just 2 years of age, Aida had already spent a month in a prison in Libya, and had crossed the Strait of Sicily in a rubber boat.”
In the last two days, over 1,500 people have come ashore in Pozzallo and Augusta, Sicily. Among them was a young Gambian couple who, after spending the past 6 months in Libya, boarded a rubber boat with their daughter, Aida. They headed for Italy, following the central Mediterranean route. Khalid and our other colleagues are there, providing social-medical assistance during the landings from EMERGENCY’s two Mobile Clinics.
“We are very sad because our numbers are skyrocketing,” said Dejan Panic, who runs the 91-bed EMERGENCY hospital here. The number of admitted trauma patients has increased by 20 percent this year, and so has the severity of the injuries, Mr. Panic said. The hospital recently built an underground bunker for staff and patients, in case the violence brings the sort of bombings that happened in Kunduz.