• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

  • Countries

  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

  • Media Content

LIBYA: Life in and outside of Sirte [Part 2]

Part 2 of 2.  Part 1 is here.

By Liz Lucas

Eventually Mohammed and his family had to leave.  The school they currently call home is a welcome relief from living in fear in Sirte.  They sleep in peace, without the sounds of bullets whizzing past or planes flying overhead.

“My children get crazy when they hear the airplanes,” he explained, referring to NATO.  “It’s horrible when you hear the explosions.”

But leaving the city was not easy.  He needed to get scarce fuel for the car, which cost 400 dinars  (about $325) for 20 liters in Sirte.  There were rumors that civilians would be harmed on the way out.  And with indiscriminate fire throughout the city, there was a risk that he and his family could be killed anywhere outside their home.  But he felt there was no choice, conditions had become “miserable.”

He continued, “In Sirte we don’t have petrol, we don’t have food.  We don’t have any necessary things for life.”

The lack of supplies is a big problem for civilians remaining in the city, as is the lack of information on what’s happening.  Houses are without electricity and most information heard is propaganda.  It’s difficult to make out what is real and what is not, to have all the information available to make an informed decision.  And many of the civilians left are those that are stuck without the means or connections to get out.  In Sirte civilians are unnecessarily bearing the brunt of the conflict.

“Let me tell you something.  We don’t have anything there.  [The rebels/NATO] could wait on us to leave.  We would come out, we would need food.  So why the bombing?”  he asks us.  When we asked if he feels it’s in retaliation for being Gaddafi’s hometown (and a loyalist stronghold) he answered, “Yes, of course.”

Mohammed considers himself not to be political and feels that many in the city were like him, just ordinary civilians.  He was surprised by how well he was treated by the rebels when he left the city.  They gave his family fuel and food.  His daughter was sick and was met by a doctor at the gate and taken to a clinic.

But he doesn’t yet trust them or anyone yet.  He worries about his family’s safety.  “I just want to live in peace.  I don’t care about politics,” he said.  But he cannot return until the fighting stops, until it is safe to go home.

“I want to go back to my city.  But I don’t think I’ll find a city when I return,” he said.

LIBYA: Life in and outside of Sirte [Part 1]

Part 1 of 2, Part 2 is here

By Liz Lucas

From inside the school in Al-Wachka comes the sound of children’s voices. At first it seems like a regular school, albeit one where the rules are relaxed. I can hear footsteps running down the hall and squeals as they play games. But for these kids, these are the hallways of their temporary home.

There are over fifty people living in the classrooms, ten families that traveled together in a convoy to escape the war that has engulfed their hometown of Sirte.

They’ve escaped bombings and shootings and found shelter 100 km away from their homes.  The children are distracted, but the adults are worried.  CIVIC spoke with Mohammed*, a 39 year-old petroleum engineer about what life is like for him and his family.

“We didn’t have a plan when we left.  We just drove,” he said.  “We had to go.  There were explosions everywhere, smoke everywhere, death everywhere.”

There is no water at the school where he, his wife, and their four children are staying and minimal support for the families here displaced by the fighting.  The families left in a hurry, taking almost nothing, waiting for the fighting to be over.

“We have brought so little.  We came in one city car that had my family.  We didn’t have time to choose what to bring.  Medicine.  Clothes.  Some photographs,” said Mohammed.

Mohammed saw the fighting firsthand; witnessing cars full of bodies driven out and civilians dying around him.  His uncle was killed after his house was hit.  Mohammed’s mother died of medical complications as the war raged on. The hospital had no supplies to treat her: “There’s no oxygen, no doctors, no medicine. There’s nothing in the hospital.”

There was firing throughout the city and he says a NATO bomb killed his neighbors, a family of 7, while they were driving out.  The bombing also destroyed three schools, which may or may not have been legitimate military targets.  The fighting in general has ruined the infrastructure of the city.  Houses are damaged and he saw four children and woman killed by a rocket and their house destroyed. The situation overall is “horrible.”

*Name has been changed to protect his identity.

Read Part 2 here

LIBYA: Voices from Misrata [Part 1]

Part 1 of 3

By Liz Lucas

Driving into Misrata, my colleague Kristele remarked that it reminded her of Beirut, where she spent much of her childhood.  The skeletons of shops, hotels, and apartments line Tripoli Street and old men drink tea next to bullet-ridden structures that can scarcely be called buildings.

Misrata looks like the city it is—a place torn apart by a war that is not yet over.  Many Misrati brigades are still fighting on the front line in Sirte and the community’s wounds are still raw.  But civilians were willing to talk to us about their experiences during the six-month siege on the city.

There is no tally of the dead and wounded of Misrata at this point, though estimates are in the thousands.  The hospital is located on Tripoli Street, at the heart of much of the fighting, so even accessing it proved to be a challenge for some families.  There was indiscriminate shelling of Misrata with rockets launched from far away and landing in the middle of neighborhoods.

In one area I visited, civilians told me stories about lost loved ones.  “Was this neighborhood particularly hard hit?” I asked.   No more than others they told me.  This was just an average neighborhood in Misrata.  Above are the stories of two families from there, in their own words.

[go to next post]

SRI LANKA: ‘We have 450 beds and now have 1,700 patients’

This article was originally printed here:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/25/sri-lanka-war

Paul McMaster works as a Médecins Sans Frontières surgeon in Vavuniya hospital. This is an excerpt from his diary:

Wednesday 4.45am Woke up and started operating. A 15-year-old boy with severe blast injuries to his abdomen. He was on his own and in shock. Surgery took about two and a half hours and he was reasonably stable. The last I heard, at least, he was stable. But our concern is what happens to him now. This is a hospital with 450 beds, three intensive care beds, and we now have 1,700 patients with up to 50 coming in a day. There are patients on the floor, in the corridors, even outside. This boy is going to be on the floor. Infection is the main worry. The wounded take days to get to us by bus and infection has often set in by the time they get here. Many of them are dying on the buses that bring them, and the bodies are taken off along with the living.

7.45am I did the rounds of the emergency department. We have cases of people with their feet blown off waiting 13 hours to go into theatre. Three-quarters of the patients we see have blast injuries.

10am We had some discussions on how to increase the flow. There are teams working around the clock. We have three surgeons: myself, a Sri Lankan surgeon and another MSF surgeon from Tampa Florida. We have put two operating tables in one theatre. Things are fairly tight and congested but we get by. There are an extremely hardworking team of Sri Lankan anaesthetists and the Sri Lankan nurses here have been working 20 hours a day.

1.45pm Went back to surgery. A head injury to a child – a boy about nine. It took about two and a half hours and went OK. The problem is the internal damage to the brain. Only the next few days will tell how bad that has been.

4pm Began work on a lower leg amputation. A man had stood on a landmine. He had been with his wife and his daughter. We will operate on the wife tonight. The child has already had some surgery to remove pieces from her arm. Technically, the surgery on the man went well, but the problem is the landmine blasted soil into his leg. There is always the fear that infection will set in.

6pm I did a series of small cases – gunshot wounds. Over the course of the day I operated on 16 patients, five of them amputations on children. These are deeply traumatised people. The children in the emergency wards see people brought in with major blast limb injuries and are just sitting silently, emotionless, in the middle of all this, so we try to treat them and move them quickly out to the surgery or the ward.

9pm Finish surgery for the day. Going to find something to eat and then get some sleep.

Friday 2.30pm I have been in the whole time and do not have the big picture, but in the last 24 hours we have seen, for the first time, fewer patients coming in. Only 44 severely wounded patients came in to the hospital yesterday, although more have come in this morning. It might be that some of the other casualties are going elsewhere, to other hospitals. We’ve sent a team on a exploratory mission to try and find out exactly what’s happening.

One of the patients I have seen is a little girl of about seven or eight who has a severe leg injury. Her elder sister is in the same bed with wounds on her arms and legs. A third sister has burns to her face. Their mother has been killed and their father is in intensive care. With the level of aftercare that we can provide at the moment he has a 50/50 chance of making it, at best.

We have done 71 major operations over the past 24 hours. A lot of the these operations have been catching up on the last few days. It has been bedlam in the hospital. But it hasn’t got worse in the last 24 hours. We are only seeing the acute casualties. There are many people who are ill, several of the injured people also have chickenpox. We are hearing reports that there have been outbreaks of chickenpox in the camps because peoples’ immune systems are so weak.

I hear that some extra nurses are being sent to the hospital. The Sri Lankan medical authorities have made a real effort to send extra staff to help out. There are simply too many people to treat them all. We are not able to save some people because we need to provide more aftercare. There are simply not enough nurses.

• Paul McMaster is a retired surgeon from Droitwich, now based in Amsterdam.

GUEST BLOGGER: “Next time, I will not vote for Karzai; I will vote for my donkey” – Pt. 2

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

Another of Goli’s brothers was shot by the ISAF troops and was taken away to Kandahar Air Field (KAF) for questioning. His mother and father went to KAF to beg for his release and to insist that he was innocent. The military provided him with hospital treatment and released him after establishing that he was not a member of the Taliban. All the other injured family members were taken to the local hospital and the family had to sell half of their land in order to pay for the hospital bills.

Three days after the attacks, the Canadian troops came to the village and apologized for the deaths and injuries and paid money to the villagers. The injured civilians even received a visit in hospital from President Karzai and the governor. Every injured person received 20,000 Afghanis (approx. $430) to help pay for the hospital bills. No money, however, was given to compensate for the deaths or for the loss of property and livestock. Continue reading