The staff and equipment shortages in the Zuwara City Hospital is symptomatic of the wider healthcare-related problems in Libya.
Although Libya has made significant progress towards improving security and stability, many sectors continue to suffer from lack of services and viable governance. The state of the main hospital in the western coastal city of Zuwara is emblematic of the wider issues plaguing Libya’s healthcare sector.
As the biggest hospital in not only the city but the wider region, the Zuwara City Hospital serves Libyans who come from as far as the city of Sabratha some 20 kilometres away. Despite its regional importance, however, the hospital is barely able to cover the needs of its patients. Hospital staff here say that the supplies and equipment they have barely covers 15% of the medical needs. Specialist facilities are also in short supply, including maternity wards of which only one exists here.
Trained staff is also in short supply. Before the Libyan Revolution in 2011, much of the staff here was foreign, often from China or Korea. Many of them have left the country since, leaving hospitals critically understaffed. For instance, the Zuwara City Hospital only has one specialist able to deal with women and childbirth issues.
The hospital staff also says that they are working in an environment of complete governmental vacuum. Although the city is nominally under the control of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), it is in turn surrounded by the territories of Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR) Government and its Libyan National Army (LNA). The region doesn’t witness much fighting or siege conditions, but it is apparent that the GNA-administered areas are experiencing something of a governance blackout.
However, the story of the Zuwara City Hospital is one that is repeated across Libya. Years of political instability, conflict and corruption have taken a toll on the country’s healthcare sector even as demand increased due to worsening economic conditions. At times, activists and civil society workers have been able to provide support, but their resources are able to cover only a fraction of what is needed.