Woman Receiving Care at the Al Tadamoon Centre
International Medical Corps in Libya:
Following the outbreak of conflict in February 2011, International Medical Corps immediately deployed teams in Libya to provide emergency medical services, train local health workers and deliver vital medicines and supplies.
International Medical Corps remained in Libya as the conflict ended, shifting initiatives from emergency services to longer-term projects aimed at supporting efforts to eliminate major gaps in health care and restore the necessary infrastructure. To do this, International Medical Corps is working with the Libyan health sector to address the primary health, mental health and rehabilitation needs of a country emerging from war.
In addition to the physical wounds of war, many Libyans are also facing long-term psychological distress related to the conflict in a region plagued by a cultural stigma towards mental health needs. To address this stigma and the lack of access to mental health services, International Medical Corps is training local health workers throughout Libya in Psychological First Aid. Mental health services have also been integrated into all of International Medical Corps’ programs delivering primary health care.
Attitudes Towards People with Mental Illness:
In Libya, as in much of the Middle East, disabled people are often marginalized and discriminated against. Within existing rehabilitative care services, there is a lack of psychosocial support and psychological counseling services. The majority of the rehabilitation centers in Libya lack social workers and psychologists trained specifically in methods to provide psychosocial support and psychological counseling to persons with disabilities and their families. There continue to be major challenges, but International Medical Corps is working with local partners to advocate rights for the disabled, including the right to education, the right to employment, and the right to take part in everyday activities. Our work aims to increase the quality of life for people living with disabilities in Libya.
In Misurata, International Medical Corps has been working to reduce the stigma associated with disability in conjunction with physical rehabilitation services and psychosocial support. Since our initiative at the Al Tadamoon Centre, the psychosocial department dealing with psychological affairs has been revitalized and is now active. The program has formed a self-help support group for women, provided literacy classes for women with disabilities, and has created a photographic exhibition where women, working together, were empowered through learning camera skills and taking photos to illustrate their theme “dreams and challenges”. The exhibition allowed them to show and explore their daily experiences, hopes and dreams. They also developed their own newsletter and have led training sessions for staff members about disability issues. Mr. Meshbah Mansoor, a father of three participants in the program said:
“There wasn’t much for my daughters to do. They were just staying at home, bored and with little meaning in life. I am grateful for this project and impressed by the way my daughters have been treated by the staff in the project. They have a feeling of being community members deserving respect and opportunities like everyone else now.”
International Medical Corps’ work in Libya continues in conjunction with both the Government of Libya, and Disabled Peoples Organization to change attitudes towards people with disabilities. Prior to International Medical Corps' involvement in the rehabilitation centers in Misrata, initial assessments showed a lack of psychosocial activities, documentation systems, an internal and external referral network, and staff knowledge of disability issues.
However, a recent re-assessment has shown improvements in these areas, especially for group activities, referral networks, and change in staff knowledge and attitudes towards persons with disabilities; much of this shift is a direct result of trainings and on-the-job activity mentoring by International Medical Corps.
International Medical Corps continues to work with those affected by both physical and mental disabilities, many as a result of the war, by providing a holistic approach to rehabilitating vulnerable people and raising awareness of the disabled population in Libya.