Healthcare personnel in Libya on strike


Medical staff in the southern Libyan city Sabha are suspending work for 10 days in protest over poor security after a doctor was kidnapped.

Health services in Libya have been severely disrupted by years of conflict with the remote south worst affected.

Salem al-Selhab, from the surgical department of Sabha Medical Centre, the biggest hospital in southern Libya, was kidnapped by an unknown group on Thursday.
“For a long time medical staff at Sabha Medical Centre have suffered attacks, abuse and been shot at,” said Osama al-Wafi, a spokesman for the centre, adding Selhab’s kidnapping was a serious setback. “This doctor was very important,” he said.

Staff at the centre and at private clinics in the city announced a 10-day strike on Sunday to demand Selhab’s release and provision of security for medical staff.

Sabha is a major hub for smuggling of migrants to Libya’s northern coast, some of who seek treatment in local medical facilities.

Sabha Medical Centre receives 70% of its backing from international organisations in the absence of state support from rival governments in Tripoli and the east, said Wafi.
“We suffer from a shortage of medicines, political division and lack of support,” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), one international body which provides Sabha Medical Centre with support, condemned violence against staff in the area.
“WHO urges all to refrain from attacking health workers and facilities, as required by international humanitarian law and calls on parties responsible for the kidnapping of the doctor in Sabha to ensure his safety and immediate release,” it said in a statement.