Editing Office - Geneva
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has strongly condemned an armed attack on Al Jala Hospital in Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi, which took place on Tuesday.
The global health body warned that further assaults could shutter the key facility. While nobody was reportedly killed, WHO said that there had been panic among patients and health workers inside the hospital, and damage to infrastructure. Unidentified armed assailants reportedly entered the building and stormed into the intensive care section, damaging some equipment in an exchange of gunfire, before they left without causing any injuries. The trauma hospital is already struggling with resources and suffering from a lack of medical supplies, WHO said. The attack marked the latest incident in a wave of attacks by armed groups in the country’s eastern pocket in recent months, prompting the volatile city to remain on a state of high alert, it added. In November, fighting between armed militia resulted in damage to a hospital for Women and Childbirth in the capital, Tripoli. A doctor was shot and the incident led to a three-day halt to non-emergency medical services, WHO said. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) responded in a statement, stressing that the national health system “is already under-resourced and overstretched, these attacks are costing lives of innocent patients and staff alike’’. WHO warned “repeated attacks will lead to closure of this important hospital, add to the suffering of Libyan people, and further deprive the already limited access they have to medical care”. The UN global health agency therefore urged all parties to observe international humanitarian law and respect the safety and neutrality of health workers and the facilities in which they operate. Such tragedies should be avoided “by taking all necessary precautionary measures and perpetrators must be brought to justice,” WHO declared. According to latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, Benghazi hosts the largest number of internally-displaced people of anywhere in the country, with 26,800 living in and around the city. Around 189,000 returnees have also made their way back to the city and surrounding areas, since the overthrow of former ruler Muammar Al Ghaddaffi, in 2011. Since then, the country has been wracked by division and economic crisis, according to the UN health agency.