LIBYA

Egyptian doctors send medical aid through porous eastern border

 As Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi strengthened his grip on the country’s capital, a group of Egyptian physicians began sending out convoys transporting medical aid and doctors to Libya.  

Advertising

 

As Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi strengthened his grip on the country’s capital, a group of Egyptian physicians began sending out convoys transporting medical aid and doctors to Libya.

 

After Benghazi, the second-largest city in Libya  fell to anti-Gaddafi protestors on Sunday, a group of Egyptian doctors launched a Facebook page to gather aid and recruit doctors. Their goal: to send physicians willing to risk trespassing into Libya to provide medical assistance.

 

In less than a week, the Facebook page titled ‘Egyptians in support of Libya’s Revolution’, has recruited over 16,000 fans.

 

Borders have been officially closed since protests began on February 15 making it difficult for journalists and humanitarian workers to enter the country. However, since the fall of Benghazi, rebels now control the eastern strip that includes the Egypt-Libya border creating an open gateway.

 

Egyptian volunteers pack boxes full of medecines and first aid kits. Photo taken from the 'Egyptians in support of Libya's Revolution' Facebook page.

“We are trying to help the east and we wanted to take the main road in order to legitimise their presence in that part of the country. The revolution is taking full control”.

Ehab Mesallum is one of the Egyptian doctors behind the humanitarian effort. Mesallum is a neurosurgeon in Cairo. He is in charge of recruiting and organising the doctors travelling to Libya. He posted pictures and amateur videos on Facebook.

 

Medecines are stuffed in boxes to be loaded onto convoys. Photo taken from the 'Egyptians in support of Libya's Revolution' Facebook page.

 

Although an accurate death toll is uncertain, the Libyan government confirmed that at least 300 people, including 111 soldiers were killed in clashes.

 

During a televised speech Tuesday, Gaddafi vowed to chase protestors—whom he called cockroaches—house by house. According to The New York Times, fighting had resumed by nightfall in Misurata, a province approximately 200 km from the capital and in the eastern cities of Ajdabiya and Sirte, near Benghazi.

 

 After we heard what had happened in Benghazi, we created the Facebook page. Within a few days we had 16,000 people willing to help us collect donations and send them into Libya. Syndicates of lawyers called us to see how they could help us.

 

The first convoy left Sunday. Unfortunately, when we got to the border in Sallum, we could only send in the aid. The Egyptian army wasn’t letting our doctors go in. But they said they weren’t coming back to Cairo…that the only place they were going was to Libya.

 

Egyptian men load up the convoys heading to Libya. Photo taken from the 'Egyptians in support of Libya's Revolution' Facebook page.

 

 

There were Bedouins who offered to help them cross through the dessert. They didn’t ask for any money or anything. They wanted to do it in order to help us. You see, many of them come from mixed families that are half-Libyan and half-Bedouin. But we did not want to go in through the country this way. We are trying to help the east and we wanted to take the main road in order to legitimise their presence in that part of the country. The revolution is taking full control.

 

After the Egyptian army realised this, they said they would let our doctors in. We already know there is no one [from Gaddafi’s government] controlling the other side. The Libyan people should know that Egyptians are their brothers and sisters and we’re coming to help. We are planning to send a convoy per day”.

 

 

Post written with Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, journalist at FRANCE24.