Letter to the Editor: Libya’s fighting is leading to loss of life of its children with heart conditions

By William M Novick.

US heart surgeon William Bill Novick hopes Libya’s fighting does not lead to the loss of lives of Libyan children with heart conditions (Photo: Social Media).

Memphis, 18 July 2019:

The political divide in Libya has led to considerable deterioration of the Health System across the country.

Technically demanding specialties such as cardiac services for children with heart disease were most affected particularly since the start of the recent conflict surrounding Tripoli.

Every year there are approximately 3,000 children in Libya born with heart disease. Nearly 1,500 of these children will need surgery to correct these heart defects.

The group that requires surgery is my focus; 375 of these children will die in the first month after birth without intervention and another 375 if surgery is not provided in the first year of life. There is a constant mortality in the surviving group such that without intervention 85-90% die by age 18 years.

My surgical teams and I have worked in Libya since 2012, we have worked in both the East (Benghazi and Tobruk) and the West (Tajoura) providing life-saving pediatric cardiac surgery to nearly 800 Libyan children with heart disease.

Additionally, we have been educating Libyan doctors, nurses and
technicians how to care for these fragile children.

Our Program in Tajoura was set to resume in early June, but the conflict has made that impossible and our program in the East has become inconsistent because of funding issues secondary to the conflict around Tripoli.

While there are children dying in the bombings there are also 2-3 children dying daily because they are not receiving cardiac surgery. Since the start of the conflict in April approximately 150-180 children may have died due to lack of adequate surgical care.

We are returning to Benghazi in September for a month-long trip that was supposed to be started in early June but was delayed because of funding delays that were surely caused by the conflict.

Inshallah we will be able to operate on 40 or more children in September. We hope to return in November to
Benghazi, if funding is not an issue. We are ready to return to Tajoura as soon as this conflict is resolved.

By working on both sides of the country it is our hope that we can serve as diplomats of peace and reconciliation in a beautiful country filled with wonderful people who only want what we all do, peace and prosperity for Libya and its’ people.


William M Novick MD
Professor of Surgery and International Child Health
University of Tennessee Health Science Center-Global Surgery Institute.
Medical Director- Novick Cardiac Alliance


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