103 surgical life savers in Tripoli, Libya

We’re back from a week in the Libyan city of Tripoli after completing a first-in-our-history mission. We upskilled 103 doctors – the largest number trained on one mission – and trialled our brand-new obstetrics and gynaecology course.

Libya’s history is marked by political turmoil and civil unrest. The uprising against the rule of Gaddafi led to brutal violence against Libyan civilians and instability across the country. Today, 13 years after the ruler’s death, conflict between armed groups continues and Libya’s security remains fragile.

Outside of politics, Libya has been devastated by natural disaster. In September of 2023, heavy rain caused the collapse of two dams, leading to horrific damage and the loss of thousands of lives. Wounds inflicted by violence or natural disasters often require rapid surgical care, with a need to focus on controlling the worst of the damage first.

Surgical toolkit for any crisis

In a bid to empower Libyan doctors with skills to treat wounds caused by war or natural disaster, we partnered with the Libyan Board of Medical Specialties to deliver four surgical training courses in parallel. Over five intense days, our team of expert trainers delivered two trauma surgery courses, two anaesthesia courses and a brand-new obstetrics and gynaecology course.

According to a 2023 UN agency report, a woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes. During conflict, women are less likely to seek maternal care and hospitals are under-staffed or under-resourced. That’s why our trainers created a bespoke obstetrics and gynaecology course to help doctors better protect mothers and their babies in war and catastrophe.

During the week, we trained 103 doctors. Doctors we’d previously upskilled in Libya also joined our training faculty and led the teaching of a number of our modules for the first time. Dr Aisha Alghamji was one of them.

“It really was paralysing”

Dr Alghamji shared: “I remember I have a case of a 70-year-old lady. We found there was a huge bleed in her tummy. Most of her blood is – in minutes – almost drained out. It really was paralysing – what to do? She doesn’t have that much time.

That lack of knowledge paralysed me. She is a living, human being – with dreams, hopes, a whole community. She is part of it. It keeps haunting you, that feeling. What I could do differently?

She lost her life.

After 2018 when I attended the course with the Foundation, there is something shifted in my way of thinking. It did that thing for me, that confidence the surgeon needs to do more than their best – to run the extra mile for the patient.

I faced another case similar to it (this lady). I told immediately to me brain – ‘damage control! Damage control!’. I was able to send her home. She is alive, she is a grandmother, she is everything.”

A resilient healthcare system

Dr Moez Zeiton, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and our Faculty Lead for Libya, said: “It is a privilege to have had the opportunity to lead the single most ambitious series of courses for the foundation, training over 100 doctors in a week. It was a huge effort from the foundation’s team and superb faculty to get over the line.

Candidates in  Libya travelled from every part of the country with many travelling over 1000km to participate in our surgical training. Their eagerness to learn and share their own experiences was evident and they will now be equipped with the skills needed to deliver high quality care to their patients. ”

This marks the beginning of continued training in Libya and a commitment to gifting doctors with extensive trauma skills to handle any challenge.