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Foreign doctors stay behind to staff Libyan hospital

NPR, June 15, 2011

In a remote area in Libya, southwest of Tripoli near the border with Tunisia, rebel forces have regained control of the Nafusa mountains after months of heavy fighting against forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. Many residents of the region fled across that border during the battles, but a small group of foreign doctors and nurses stayed behind to help tend the wounded in the town of Nalut. During fighting on the outskirts of Nalut one day last month, Grad rockets had been raining down for two hours when the first casualty was rushed into the ER. Crowded around the operating table were nurses from Ukraine and the Philippines, a Pashtun anesthetist from Pakistan, and two surgeons — one from Egypt, the other from North Korea. Jomma Metawa says it's a familiar scene at this hospital. He was running the lab back in 2005 and came back a few weeks ago to Nalut, his hometown, when he heard about the staff shortage. "We are few, yes, because all Libyan people [are] not here. All the Libyan nurses went to Tunisia," Metawa says.