Nursing Libya's outbreak is 'harder than war'

Libya has been ravaged by years of war, but at this hospital, the workers are saying coronavirus has proven even worse.

"God knows, I live in my office, I don't sleep until 7 a.m. and sometimes I can't close my eyes before 10 or 11 a.m., or I don't sleep at all."

Fatima Amtir is the head nurse here at Sabha Medical Centre. She hasn't seen her family in over a month.

Along with 16 other colleagues, she spends her days and nights on the frontline.

"Of course, I miss my children, my mother, and my father. I haven't seen them for 38 days. Yesterday, my mother was not feeling well so she came to the hospital to take a nasal swab test. My mother has cancer, she came to the hospital and I couldn't hug her, I don't even know if I will ever see her again."

Although it is not an officially designated COVID-19 facility, Fatima's hospital still receives patients suffering from the virus and conducts widespread testing.

It’s the biggest hospital in southern Libya and many of the staff know violence conflict firsthand, as the country's suffered through conflict since the toppling of Gaddafi in nine years ago.

But for Fatima -- this pandemic has brought challenges not even faced

"I witnessed all the events that have happened here since 2011, and I never missed a working day in the hospital. But this time, during this pandemic, I can't even leave or hug my parents. I don't know if I'll be able to see them again."

In an effort to combat the spread the International Committee of the Red Cross has been providing personal protective equipment and medical supplies to facilities throughout the city.

The ICRC also gave out food parcels and hygiene kits to families quarantine at home.

But the sudden and rapid increase in infections is overwhelming the already stricken public healthcare system and causing widespread fear among residents.

The hospital has also been gravely understaffed --19 of its healthcare workers tested positive for the virus and had to be isolated themselves.

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