Since 2011, Libya has suffered repeated conflicts that left critical infrastructure and basic social services destroyed. The violence continues in some parts of Tripoli.
All over the country public facilities are not only affected directly by the conflict, but are also in a state of neglect due to the lack of maintenance.
Data from WHO reveals that 17 out of 97 hospitals are closed and only four hospitals are functioning at only 75–80 percent capacity. Over 20 percent of primary health care facilities are closed.
Atia Kaseh General Hospital is the largest and oldest medical centre in the southeast region. It serves more than 80,000 people in Al-Kufra and neighbouring cities such as Tazirbu and Rabiana.
The medical centre was damaged by the conflicts that the city witnessed in recent years and its upkeep had been neglected.
“I was born in Al Kufra and studied nursing here. All newborns in the city of Al Kufra and nearby villages are born in Atia Al-Kaseh Hospital, which had not been rehabilitated since 2006,” said Fatima Musa, who works in the hospital as a nurse.
“Sometimes the patients entered directly to the operation rooms or the ICU because there was no emergency department. Then, we had to stop the operations and deal with the new patients,” she says.
When hospitals cannot perform all their functions, people are forced to travel long distances to get healthcare. Finding safe transportation is not easy. Ambulances are not readily available, nor are they free.
“I was forced to travel more than 1,000 kilometres to Benghazi or Ajdabiya for any surgery, especially when my wife was about to give birth. The hospital wasn’t close, but the level of services was very low. It was not easy for people to get a critical surgery under these circumstances,” says Fathi Mohamed, father of four. “I remember when my wife was about to give birth to my second son Abubaker. She needed a surgical intervention. At that time, Al-Kufra airport was closed because of the clashes, so we had to travel on dangerous and decrepit roads to reach Benghazi for a caesarean.”
“I know several of my relatives who had to travel to the city of Benghazi or Ajdabia when it’s time for childbirth, because they did not trust the capabilities of Al-Kufra hospital,” says Fatima.
“Al-Kufra Ambulance Services supports all people without exception, but we had moments in which people with heart diseases were fearing for their life because they have to face dangerously long wait times for transportation,” says Ibrahim Bulhassin, ambulance driver at Al-Kufra General Hospital.
UNDP Libya is responding to the short-term urgent needs of the people while providing long term and sustainable solutions. The goal is to bring immediate help, as well as to lay the foundations for a better future. UNDP is helping authorities to provide basic services to citizens across the country, ensuring that communities not only cope and recover from crisis, but also move towards lasting peace and sustainable development.
With funds from the European Union and in partnership with the Ministry of Local Governance and Al-Kufra Municipality, UNDP has renovated the pediatric, gynecological, surgical and emergency department at Atia Kaseh General Hospital and provided it with two intensive care ambulances and two fully-equipped operating theatres.
“We have faced several challenges inside the hospital. With UNDP intervention we overcame them. The rehabilitation targeted several departments inside the hospital such as the emergency department, hospital façade and the main entrance, operating rooms, the intensive care unit, and the department of obstetrics and gynecology, which have had a special impact on patients,” said Dr. Ali Saleh Akanishi, Deputy Director of Atia Al-Kassah General Hospital.
Fatima says one of the main challenges was overcrowding and disorganization.
“Now that a new emergency department has been built we are better organized. The patients don’t go to the operating room or ICU before passing through the reception and the emergency department,” she says.
Local women now feel safer, knowing that don’t have to travel 1,000 kilometres for a cesarean section.
“They trust the hospital because is clean and organized. Some of them told us that entering the obstetrics and gynecology department feels like entering a hotel lobby,” Fatima says.
The newly-renovated hospital is in big demand — about 500 people are treated there every day.
“As a nurse operating in the operating room for seven years, I am very proud of being involved in several critical surgeries. No doubt, there is no greater feeling as the feeling of saving a human life,” Fatima says.
Story by UNDP Libya; photos by UNDP Libya/Emraja Taher