On board the Humanity 1 there were people with clear signs of torture. No passengers were seriously sick or injured but many needed medical treatment | Photo: TWITTER/SOS HUMANITY
On board the Humanity 1 there were people with clear signs of torture. No passengers were seriously sick or injured but many needed medical treatment | Photo: TWITTER/SOS HUMANITY

Some of the 261 migrants who reached the Puglia port city of Bari on Sunday, December 11, were in poor health and needed to be hospitalized. A nurse on board the rescue vessel Humanity 1 said a few passengers rescued off Libya's coast were in "terrible medical conditions".

Four adults were hospitalized at the Policlinico hospital, and several children are being treated at the pediatric hospital Giovanni XXII in Bari, including "two unaccompanied sisters aged 11 and 15 who were strongly dehydrated and anemic, then a 15-year-old boy with scabies, a two-year-old with severe bronchitis and another of the same age for injuries and other problems," the local health authortity said. The two-year-olds were hospitalized along with their mothers.

The director general of Bari's Policlinico hospital, Giovanni Migliore, thanked the local "health authority and all operators working tirelessly" to provide assistance. He praised the "great coordination" of emergency 118 operators "and of ER doctors and operators who organized everything to better deal with the emergency."

He thanked in particular "doctors, nurses and operators of the children's hospital who, first at the port, and then in the ER showed not only great professionality in carrying out in just a few hours check-ups on the many minors on board the ship, but also great humanity by guaranteeing a warm welcome to the little refugees who reached Bari," he concluded.

Also read: Two evacuations from Geo Barents after baby born at sea

Happiness upon arrival after torture endured in Libya

Upon learning that they were about to land, migrants "were so happy and thanked us," said Maria, one of the nurses on board the Humanity 1 vessel.

"They were happy to know that there are people in this world who can take care of them."

She went on to say that the "medical conditions of people on board were terrible, I don't know how to describe them."

The nurse explained that all passengers had been in Libya and bore "signs of torture", including "stab wounds, burns from cigarettes, broken ribs due to repeated beatings, signs of sexual abuse," she noted.

"Three women were pregnant," including one who needed antibiotics due to complications. "We also had a case of malnourishment and dehydration because in prisons in Libya these people are treated in an inhuman way, left for days without water and food.

"We needed to drip-feed many of them," the nurse said, adding that the "psychological distress and trauma" suffered by passengers were significant. Bianca, a psychologist on board, explained that "many still sleep with their eyes open because they suffered constant violence, day and night, for months."

Men were also raped and gang raped, "including with firearms, just to take away their dignity," she said.

"I think witnessing a child thank you for a bottle of water is the most beautiful and at the same time the most horrible thing in the world as a child's heartfelt thanks because he is thirsty I think shows social inadequacy," she concluded.

Health plan organized by local ASL health authority in Bari

Before the Humanity 1 arrived, Bari's local health authority ASL announced it was ready with an assistance plan on three levels: the first, more in general, consisted in an alert for hospitals to be ready to treat frail passengers or those in poor condition; the second, more specifically, consisted in dispatching two ambulances of the 118 emergency service, including one with doctors to treat passengers upon landing, in case they had diseases, injuries or other situations requiring emergency medical treatment; the third for Covid testing, in coordination with the local department of prevention, in cooperation with the offices of maritime, air and border health USMAF and the Italian Red Cross.

Bari's Policlinico hospital also provided medical staff dedicated to treating potential emergencies. Finally, the civil protection agency provided technical and logistical support by giving protective equipment including gloves and masks, water and basic necessities.


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