News / Africa

    Misrata Hospital Copes with Libya's War Wounded

    Scott Bobb

    In Libya, forces opposed to former leader Moammar Gadhafi now control most of the country. But Gadhafi continues to evade capture and fighting continues in several important cities. The central coastal city of Misrata endured intense combat. Yet, its medical workers continue to treat wounded from other areas.

    It is early morning at the main hospital in Misrata. All staff have been summoned because an influx of patients is expected from the fighting at nearby Gadhafi strongholds.

    Doctor Abdulmoneim Ahmed heads the trauma unit. His staff has treated thousands of wounded during the six months of fighting between forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and those backing the opposition National Transitional Council.

    "At beginning we were in a very bad situation. This place [the hospital] was not suitable for such a disaster, but with volunteers and with equipment coming from outside, we had to help ourselves and our people," said Ahmed.

    Ali Abu Freida was a first grade teacher until he joined the anti-Gadhafi fighters. He was wounded in the stomach three months ago and still is under treatment.

    He says he will go back to teaching after Gadhafi is defeated. Despite his injuries, he says, the effort was worth it. He says he did not wish for things to be like this, but what had to be, had to be. We had to do it, he says, so no regrets.

    The number of incoming wounded has slowed since anti-Gadhafi forces gained control of Misrata. But casualties continue to come in from other battlefields.  Many hospital staff fled or are missing.

    Medical student Amina Baitulmal, 18, is one of 60 volunteers. She says the experience was traumatic at first.

    "How do I deal with it? I don't know," Baitulmal said.  "I just got used to it. At first, it was shocking but when everything happens you just don't have the time to think. I don't want to say it's easy, but it's ok."

    Dr. Ahmed says many staff members and patients are suffering from stress because of what they have experienced.

    "We saw a lot of cases with such a problem and we accepted a lot of psychotherapists," noted Ahmed.  "They meet with the patients and are trying to relieve their tension and their problems."

    Everyone hopes the fighting will end soon. But most understand that even when it does, the road to recovery - both physical and mental - will be long and hard.

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