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Survivors of Libya's floods include 20,000 pregnant women who need health care


In northeastern Libya, floods destroyed much of the coastal city of Derna. Thousands are dead. Thousands more are missing. And nine days on, recovery efforts continue. Among the survivors are some 20,000 women who are pregnant and in need of immediate health care. That's according to the U.N. Two thousand of those women are expected to give birth next week. Humanitarian workers like Ahmad Algeriany are working to get them the help they need. He's with the UNFPA - that's the United Nations reproductive health agency. And he joins us now from Benghazi in eastern Libya. Good morning, Ahmad.

AHMAD ALGERIANY: Hey. Good morning, Leila. Thank you for having me on this morning.

FADEL: Ahmad, you spent the weekend in Derna assessing the situation. What did you find? What did you see there?

ALGERIANY: Well, Leila, with no question, the situation in Derna is beyond disastrous and heartbreaking and led to a severe impact on the people of Derna, especially women and girls and migrants. Whole neighborhoods - we're talking about whole neighborhoods - were flooded, collapsed and carried away to the middle of the sea, along with the people inside them. We're talking 10-, 12-stories buildings collapsed and carried with the powerful stream to the depths of the Mediterranean, large numbers of families gone, as it happened suddenly after midnight. Ninety percent of them, as you can see, were sleeping safe in their homes. Up till this day, the search and rescue teams find bodies drowned in their homes deep in the sea. The government is doing its best for sheltering and setting shelters for the displaced families.

FADEL: It's 45,000 people that are homeless now, 20,000 of them pregnant. Where are people going for shelter?

ALGERIANY: The government have managed to give them shelters for now, a temporary shelter in the schools. They have six schools right now in Derna being prepared and filled with the displaced families. The other half of the families just went to their families in the other cities, such as Benghazi. The government is thinking of replacing those schools now with more safe and protected shelters outside of Derna. Now, Derna, it's a little bit dangerous to live there because of the bodies and the infection and the smell. They're thinking of leaving and taking those families outside of Derna and try to rebuild Derna.

FADEL: And what about medical care? It's a city that has largely been swept into the sea. For these pregnant women and for others who need help, where do they go for that care?

ALGERIANY: Yes, for now, UNFPA is working hand-in-hand with the government to settle the six primary health care facilities in the city. Those six primary health care centers were submerged and flooded also with the floods. Most of the materials and devices were damaged. And also, the staff that has been working in those facilities also were in the community which was damaged, severely damaged, and lost their lives.

The UNFPA is providing at least five teams now to those facilities. Five teams, each team consists of five physicians and four paramedics. For primary health care and immediate health care, the people of Derna or the affected people in the shelters go to the health care facilities that have been established by the government and the UNFPA and other sister agencies in the U.N., and also at the field hospital, which also has a team of reproductive health care and paramedics for them, ready to receive all the affected women and girls in the area.

FADEL: Ahmad Algeriany is a program specialist with the UNFPA. He spoke with us from Benghazi. Thank you so much for sharing what you saw and what the needs are there.

ALGERIANY: It's my pleasure. Thank you so much, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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