It was a small article on a Libyan news site, easy to miss. Turkish hospitals and hotels are refusing to receive any new patients from Libya. The debt has simply grown too high. Turkish hospitals have treated more than 8,000 Libyans sent to them for care, and the bills have not been paid.
Why are so many Libyans sent out of country for care?
Five years of civil war and instability and the growing presence of ISIS have displaced half a million people and stretched Libya’s health care system to the breaking point.
Syria and Iraq dominate global headlines, but life in Libya is difficult:
Half the population has been directly affected by war.
Two million residents are in need of health services.
One in five hospitals have closed.
Large agencies like the World Health Organization are focused on delivering basic care to huge swaths of the population—providing childhood vaccines and preventing communicable diseases.
Other aid agencies sent their international staff to neighboring Tunisia to wait out the violence.
In the meantime, 400 to 600 Libyan babies are born every year in need of specialized surgical or medical intervention within the first year of life.
Babies like Taleen.
Even where hospitals are functioning on a limited basis in Libya, there remain a host of other challenges:
A shortage of health care workers
Medical warehouses that were full of supplies, lost to bombs
Doctors and nurses who are not trained to handle the most complicated heart defects
As a result, children with acute health needs like Taleen and Muttah can’t get the care they need.
Then you showed up.
When we announced our first surgical mission in Libya, you where there. You weren’t afraid of the challenges in Libya.
You saw what many did not: this is a country where we can make a real difference!
In the United States, more than 90% of children born with congenital heart defects are surviving into adulthood, just like Dane. Only a few decades ago, survival was rare. But forty years of investment in the American medical system has resulted in more adults living with congenital heart defects today than children.
We want to help bring that same medical progress from west to east.
That’s why we perform surgeries in-country. Not only is it less expensive than sending patients outside for treatment; it keeps precious dollars and resources in Libya where they are so needed.
That’s why we make sure local doctors and nurses get the best training available. They are able to learn global best practices from some of the world’s most skilled practitioners—within their own communities. This hands-on learning is put to work immediately, saving the lives of Libyan children.
In time, Libya won’t need our help at all!
In a place so volatile, our continued presence provides needed stability! In the face of civil war, ISIS, and massive systemic needs, we aren’t running away. And neither are you. Together, we’re leaning in.
Please continue making a difference for the children of Libya.