Libya: Children traumatized by five years of war

Handicap International has been working in Libya since 2011 after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Due to the country’s extreme instability, the organization relocated its regional headquarters to Tunisia in July 2014. However, Handicap International continues to operate inside Libya via mobile teams. Anne Barthès, who has been leading the mission since February 2016, recently took time to reflect on Handicap International's current work:

Since August, we have been working exclusively with children from displaced families in Tripoli, Libya, with a particular focus on children with disabilities. Our mobile team, consisting of a physical therapist and two psychosocial workers, visits displaced persons’ camps and the surrounding areas, as many people are accommodated by host families. This team identifies disabled children with specific requirements relating to their disability. The team provides children with disabilities with physical therapy and mobility devices like crutches, walking frames, and wheelchairs. 

Our teams also raise displaced people’s awareness about disability, offering advice on improving disabled people’s inclusion in families and the community in general. Another important function of these awareness-raising sessions is to inform people about psychosocial problems: after five years of war and multiple displacements to escape from fighting, many children exhibit signs of anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma.

Some become totally introverted. And yet, psychological issues remain poorly understood and even taboo in Libya. We put the families of children displaying these symptoms in touch with organizations offering appropriate support, such as leisure activities in playgrounds or group discussion sessions, sometimes with their parents present.

We offer support to physical therapy departments in four hospitals and in health centers. We donate mobility devices and train medical staff how to identify individuals with psychological problems.

Displaced families have very little knowledge about available medical services and miss out on the care they need even though these services exist. For this reason we are putting together a brochure with information on health centers in Tripoli, which we will be distributing to displaced families at the end of August.