Global Politics

Libyan Fighters Recuperating In Jordan

This story is a part of

Human Needs

This story is a part of

Human Needs

Wahnis Mohamed is recuperating from surgery and doing well. Wahnis, who's 45, came to the Jordan Hospital in Amman to donate a kidney to his sister. She's doing fine too, he said.

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"This operation would not have been possible back in Libya before the revolution," Mohamed said. "We didn't have the connections."

He added that this is his first time in Jordan, which is doing a "great job" helping patients from Libya.

Jordan might not share a border with the North African state of Libya. Far from it; Amman and Tripoli are more than 1,300 miles apart. But Jordan is playing a role in Libya's effort to recover from months of civil war and decades of brutal dictatorship under the late Muammar Gaddafi. Tens of thousands of Libyans have traveled to Jordan in the past year for medical treatment.

They started to arrive last summer, when Jordan flew in one hundred severely injured Libyan fighters and treated them for free. The numbers grew quickly – and they weren't just injured warriors. Libyans seeking treatment for cancer, diabetes and even in-vitro fertilization started coming to Jordan, which is considered to have some of the best hospitals in the Arab world.

By the end of the year, Jordan was getting up to 800 patients from Libya per day.

"All the time, I am talking about it as a tsunami for Jordan," said Dr. Awni al-Bashir, chairman of the Private Hospitals Association in Jordan. He said more than 50,000 Libyan patients have come to Jordan in the past six months.

"It was for us miserable days, but we managed not to be broken under this stress of this number of patients."

One detail that had to be smoothed out was the skyrocketing medical tab for all these patients. The new Libyan government has pledged to foot much of the bill; it is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. The hospitals in Jordan might stand to make a lot of money — eventually – but for now, Jordanian patients are complaining that their hospitals are more crowded than ever.

That sentiment was expressed in a recent political cartoon. It shows a Jordanian man squeezing into a hospital bed already occupied by a Libyan man. The Jordanian is saying sarcastically, "No, you're not bothering me at all. I hope you feel better!"

Jordanians shouldn't worry about Libyan patients getting priority, said Dr. Abdullah Bashir, chief of Jordan Hospital.

"All of them will be treated. The Jordanians and the Libyans will be treated by either by Jordan private hospitals, or private sector, or the government."
Bashir added that it's not a competition. "All of us are working to serve them all, Libyans and the Jordanians."

He added that medical professionals in Jordan should be proud of what they're doing to help Libyan patients in the wake of the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi.

"One man was ruling the country and taking all the resources of the country without giving to any sector, especially the medical sector," he said. "It's a rich country. The medical sector should be very good." He added that Libyans should be able to treat patients from outside Libya, and not be forced to seek treatment abroad.

While Libyans patients I spoke with say they're happy to get the treatment here in Jordan, some expressed some frustration.

A young man from Tripoli — whose right arm was shot up during the fighting last year — said he and his comrades were flown to Jordan at the expense of Libya's transitional government.

"People here treat us like donkeys," he said. "They don't understand what we've been through."
But if Libyans here are feeling frustrated, Abdo-Salaam Kuriayeb, the Libyan official in charge of moving patients in and out of Jordan, reminds them to be on their best behavior.

Every Libyan who comes here, he said, needs to respect the people of Jordan and be appreciative.

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    The hotel where I'm staying in Amman is full of Libyans seeking medical care in Jordanian hospitals. Here are a couple of guys I met in the lobby yesterday. Both of them had pretty nasty injuries from the fighting last year.

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    Bashir is the head of Jordan Hospital in Amman. He says Jordanian medical professionals have done the right thing by treating tens of thousands of Libyan patients in recent months with urgent needs. (Photo: Dunia Kamal)