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Libya's War Wounded And Promises Of An Italian Hospital

A Libyan government soldier treated in Misrata in August
A Libyan government soldier treated in Misrata in August
Giordano Stabile

MISRATA — This Libyan coastal city is bearing the brunt of the ongoing offensive to defeat the Islamic State in its nearby stronghold of Sirte. Flooded with hundreds of injured people streaming in from the fighting, its recently renovated central hospital is buckling under the pressure.

With only 120 beds, two operating rooms, and a lack of trauma specialists, Misrata's hospital is overwhelmed every time a new wave of wounded arrives from the battlefield, forcing it to discharge other patients not in critical condition.

In the face of the extreme conditions, doctors and patients here alike all ask for the same thing: the "Italian hospital."

Misrata's residents had been promised an Italian-run field hospital with its own team of surgeons to alleviate the emergency, but continuing delays are fueling resentment towards Italy.

Italian diplomatic sources claim the hospital will open in a matter of weeks and that it will be built at a site near the airport. Misrata's city council also confirmed that a team of Italian technicians arrived two weeks ago to inspect the location, but there's still no trace of construction workers anywhere at the building site.

"The final decision is in the hands of the mayor," says Ramadan Mohammed Maiteeg, head of the city's media office. "Until then work cannot begin."

Dr. Abdulaziz Issa, who works at the central hospital, says that since May 5 some 3,000 wounded and 52 dead have been brought here. When patients arrive at the overworked emergency room, they're divided into three categories based on their condition: mild, medium, and life-threatening. When too many injured soldiers and civilians arrive, the hospital tries to free all the beds it can by sending home patients in "mild" condition.

Those with the gravest injuries are often sent abroad for treatment if nothing can be done for them here. So far, 26 patients have been sent to Italy. Despite the anger over the delayed construction of the Italian hospital, there is still some local goodwill towards Libya's former colonizer for sending two C-130 planes carrying medical supplies. Turkey is also giving aid to the city, contributing medical teams to the humanitarian effort.

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Misrata in 2012. Libya's third-largest city helped lead the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. Photo: Joepyrek

Even with this help, Misrata's central hospital remains in crisis. Dr. Issa estimates there are only around 150 nurses left, most of them Sudanese, while medical students like Khalid Tirlib are also lending a hand where they can. Last Saturday, 30 new patients arrived — 21 of them are still hospitalized. They describe a war of traps and trickery, like the car bomb covered in a Libyan flag that struck Mohammed al-Forjani, a 22-year-old economics student and fighter in the local militia.

The medical students repeat the same request as their superiors. "The only thing we're missing in this war is help for the wounded," says one. "Please give us medical supplies and a bigger hospital."

The hospital's lack of beds hampers the war effort, as it takes longer to treat wounded fighters and get them back to the battlefield. Ironically, there's a facility beside the central hospital that would solve this problem — 85% complete with 420 beds and eight operating rooms — but construction has stalled and the buildings are coated in dust.

"It could be finished in six months," says Dr. Issa. "But the construction companies refuse to resume work until they're paid, and the central government in Tripoli won't send the funds."

The national unity government in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, is currently locked in difficult negotiations to form a new executive and is unlikely to answer to Misrata's needs soon.

Rumors have been circulating for two months that the fight against the Islamic State in Sirte is coming to an end. Disappointed at the Italian hospital that's yet to be built, the people of Misrata are, at this point, wondering what will come first: the hospital, or peace.

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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