The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) evacuated three war-wounded people from Ibn Sina hospital in Sirte to a field hospital on the other side of the front line on 6 October 2011.
It benefited from a lull in hostilities during a few hours that enabled it to carry out this operation. An estimated 20,000 people who have fled the fighting are now staying near Sirte, often in difficult conditions.
“The three wounded patients needed to be taken out. In the current conditions, the hospital in Sirte cannot provide the specialized care they need,” said Cordula Wolfisberg, an ICRC doctor who entered the hospital. “Together with the medical staff at the hospital, we identified which patients required evacuation and were stable enough to withstand it. We also made sure they were willing to leave.”
Once outside Sirte, the patients, accompanied by three members of their families, were transferred further to a hospital in Misrata. One of the evacuees is a seriously injured nine-year-old girl. Medication for people suffering from chronic diseases – donated by other humanitarian organizations – was also delivered by the ICRC to the hospital.
“Today there were only a few doctors left to treat war-wounded people in the Sirte hospital,” added Dr Wolfisberg. “Because of the fighting in the area, most patients have been moved from the wards to the corridors. In addition, the hospital is packed with civilians from the neighbourghood, including many women and small children.”
ICRC delegates also delivered food parcels, baby milk, diapers and hygiene items for 1,000 people inside conflict-stricken Sirte.
The ICRC reiterates that all possible measures must be taken to protect civilians and ensure safe access for health-care and humanitarian workers, as required by international humanitarian law.
This was the third time since 1 October that the ICRC had managed to enter Sirte from the west. The security situation remains extremely volatile, limiting movements and the time that ICRC staff can spend inside the city.
While thousands of civilians are still caught inside Sirte, many others have fled the city in recent weeks in search of safety. More than 18,000 people, among them many women, children and elderly people, are currently displaced east of Sirte. Around 5,000 of them are staying in the desert nearby and others are scattered in Harawa and its surroundings, some 50 kilometres east of Sirte. West of the city, hundreds of people have moved to safer areas between Sirte and Misrata.
“Waves of civilians are leaving the city almost every day,” said Ghafar Bishtawi, an ICRC delegate, east of Sirte. “We even saw entire families leaving on foot, bringing their small children with them, without any food or water.”
Together with Libyan Red Crescent volunteers, the ICRC is distributing potable water, baby food, baby milk and hygiene items to most of the displaced people.