LONDON, Oct 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The health
system in the Libyan city of Sirte has collapsed and thousands
of residents are facing shortages of food and medicine as
pro-government forces battle to seize control of the coastal
city from Islamic State, a medical charity said on Tuesday.
Over the past two days, forces led by brigades from Misrata
have pressed further into Sirte's neighbourhood Number Three,
advancing building by building as they try to finish a
Islamic State now controls a residential strip of less than
1 km long in their former stronghold.
The International Medical Corps, which has been assisting
Libyans who have fled Sirte, said once Islamic State was ousted
from the city, government and aid agencies would face a huge
challenge rebuilding infrastructure and re-establishing
"Sirte is a collapsed city," said Claudio Colantoni, the
International Medical Corps' country director for Libya.
"The situation is dramatic. The health system is completely
collapsed, there are no working hospitals, the needs are at 360
degrees," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an phone
Problems were magnified by political divisions within the
country, Colantoni added.
"It will be very difficult to cope with this kind of
challenge if Libya doesn't find a way to find a political
appeasement," he said.
The U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has so
far struggled to exert its authority and recently saw a rival
eastern commander, Kahlifa Haftar, seize some of Libya's major
oil ports, one of which is less than 200 km from Sirte.
An estimated 90,000 people, about three quarters of the
city's population, have fled Sirte since it was taken over by
Islamic State last year, according to the United Nations.
Military operations to oust the jihadist group triggered new
displacement, while also leading to the return of many families
to areas cleared of militants, the U.N. relief agency said in
Those who have fled the area have reported severe shortages
of food and medicines as well as lootings, public beheadings,
"crucifixions" on scaffolding and abductions, the U.N. Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Colantoni said fighting resulted in large numbers of people
requiring treatment for wounds as well as psychosocial support.
He said the area around Sirte remained too volatile for the
International Medical Corps to deliver aid or open a field
"For any form of intervention to be carried out the
situation needs to be stabilized," Colantoni said.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Katie
Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate
change. Visit news.trust.org)