Libya hospital strikes "more common and serious"

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The old town of Benghazi, Libya, where medical facilities are increasingly targeted in attacks by rocket, grenade and bombs, WHO says. Photo: UNSMIL/Iason Athanasiadis

Attacks on health facilities in Libya are happening more often with ever more serious consequences for the country's people, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Monday.

According to WHO's representative in Libya, Dr Syed Jaffer Hussain, Benghazi's main hospital and three other health facilities in the eastern city have been targeted in the last five days.

WHO says the attacks violate international humanitarian law and adds that those in Benghazi reflect what is happening elsewhere in the country, which has been in turmoil since the overthrow of President Muammar al-Qhadafi in 2011.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Bomb blasts, rockets, grenades and car bombs have targeted four hospitals and health centres in the north-eastern coastal town of Benghazi in the past five days, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In one attack, more than 470 people were in Benghazi's Ear, Nose and Throat clinic when a rocket hit the building.

The operating theatres are now out of action and patients – many with existing injuries – have been relocated.

WHO's representative in Libya, Dr Syed Jaffer Hussain, says these incidents are happening more often and with increasingly dire consequences for those caught up in the post-Qhadafi chaos.

He's called for all warring parties to exercise restraint.

"We are issuing these appeals to the warring factions that at least spare the hospitals or the health facilities because they are neutral places working for whoever ends up there, so that's our major concern."

Only three weeks ago a car-bomb caused extensive damage to part of Benghazi Medical Centre – the only facility offering life-saving care to half-a-million people in the eastern coastal city.

Throughout Libya, WHO says that almost half of the country's hospitals and health facilities are "non-functional", while almost 50 per cent of its people, around 2.4 million – are in need humanitarian assistance.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’11″

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