The UN on Wednesday warned that Libya’s healthcare system is suffering from armed conflict and violence.
“Hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Libya have been bombed, shelled and hit by stray bullets during armed violence,” said the report published by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Support Mission in Libya.
“Parties to the conflict have routinely failed to take feasible precautions to distinguish between legitimate military objectives and civilian objects,” the UN office added.
The UN report recorded 36 attacks on medical facilities, personnel or patients between May 1, 2017 and May 1, 2018.
The UN office medical workers in Libya have been assaulted, threatened and even unlawfully deprived of liberty by armed groups, including those formally integrated into government ministries.
According to the report, the medical centre of the southern city of Sabha, some 800 km southwest of the capital Tripoli, was hit by indiscriminate shelling and gunfire 15 times between February and May, as a result of violent tribal clashes in the city.
It also cited an incident in the Jalaa hospital of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, on Nov. 17, 2017, when armed group members clashed inside the corridors of the hospital with AK-47s, causing damage to the medical institution and panic among patients and staff members.
On Feb. 18, a woman in labour was held up by armed militants at a checkpoint of the eastern city of Danra, eventually leading to the death of the woman and her unborn child.
Moreover, the UN office said, armed groups have looted medical equipment, supplies, ambulances and even air-conditioners and beds from hospitals and medical centres.
“Threatening doctors at gunpoint, attacking medical facilities, preventing sick and wounded people from receiving timely treatment, this is utterly shameful behaviour, affecting some of the most vulnerable people in Libya, and the healthcare workers who have the power to help them,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al-Hussein said.
The UN called on the conflict parties to take necessary precautions to “minimize the impact of hostilities on civilians and civilian objects.”
“Under international humanitarian law, the rights of the wounded and sick must be respected in all circumstances.
“It is a war crime to willfully kill or cause great suffering or serious injury to their bodies or health,” the UN warned.
Following the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, Libya has been suffering escalating violence and chaos, as well as political division.
In addition to the shortage of medical staff, Libya also suffers from lack of funding because of the ongoing economic crisis.
Many Libyans have to resort to highly expensive private clinics or medical services abroad.