MSF withdraws from east Libya

2011-03-16 14:00
Cairo - Paris-based medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres has withdrawn its teams from eastern Libya to Egypt due to heavy fighting between insurgents and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

It will still help Libyans, mainly through sending supplies, MSF said in a statement.

Gaddafi's forces have swept across a coastal strip into what was rebel-controlled territory, retaking several oil towns and moving as far east as Ajdabiyah, which lies about 150km south of the rebel base of Benghazi.

"Amid fierce and ongoing fighting in Libya, Medecins Sans Frontieres has been forced to withdraw its staff from Benghazi," the group said.

Its teams had now reached or were travelling to Alexandria on Egypt's north coast.

"They will try to continue supporting Libyan health facilities, primarily through provision of medicines and medical materials," it said in a statement received late on Tuesday.

MSF had made 33 tons of medical supplies available, but security conditions had made it effectively impossible for medical teams to travel safely to areas of fighting where there was the greatest need.

The group said that on two different occasions last week, an MSF team tried to reach the contested oil town of Ras Lanuf but was forced to turn back due to insecurity.

A team that went to Brega, another oil town, and planned to set up a small operating theatre had to postpone their activities as the frontline moved east, the group said. The surgical team is now also on standby in Alexandria.

MSF said a team in Tunisia was continuing efforts to cross into Libya from the west to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to people stuck or wounded in the fighting. It said the Libyan authorities had prevented that team entering Libya.

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