BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Medical staff in the southern Libyan city of Sabha said on Monday they were suspending work for 10 days in protest over poor security after a doctor was kidnapped.
Health services in Libya have been severely disrupted by years of conflict with the remote south particularly affected.
Salem al-Selhab, who worked in the surgical department of the Sabha Medical Centre, the biggest hospital in southern Libya, was kidnapped by an unknown group on Thursday evening.
“For a long time the medical staff of the Sabha Medical Centre have suffered attacks, abuse and been shot at,” said Osama al-Wafi, a spokesman for the center, adding that Selhab’s kidnapping was a serious setback. “This doctor was very important,” he said.
Staff at the center and at private clinics in the city announced a 10-day strike on Sunday to demand Selhab’s release and the provision of security for medical staff.
Sabha is a major hub for the smuggling of migrants toward Libya’s northern coast, some of whom seek treatment in local medical facilities.
The Sabha Medical Centre receives 70 percent of its backing from international organizations in the absence of state support from rival governments in Tripoli and the east, said Wafi.
“We suffer greatly from a shortage of medicines, political division and lack of support,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO), one of the international bodies to provide Sabha Medical Centre with support, strongly condemned violence against staff in the area.
“WHO urges all to refrain from attacking health workers and facilities, as required by international humanitarian law, and calls upon parties responsible for the kidnapping of the doctor in Sabha to ensure his safety and immediate release,” it said in a statement.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi and Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Richard Balmforth