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Joyce Hood worked at the heart of the conflict in Libya, describing her mission as being a frontline field hospital that moved, as the frontline of battle moved. A New Zealand Red Cross aid worker, Joyce was deployed in Libya where she heard many first-hand accounts of direct attacks on health care workers and hospitals, by both Gadhafi and rebel troops.
Hood recalls speaking to a brave nurse in Misrata who was willing to share her knowledge of such attacks. “Gadhafi troops had been based at a hospital in Misrata. When rebels came into town, patients were used as human shields,” Hood says. “At one point, Gadhafi troops were ordered to do something and when they refused, they were shot in front of patients. When these troops left they stole ambulances and all of their supplies.”
Hood says there are a number of reasons why troops steal ambulances in a conflict situation: for the vehicle itself, its precious medical supplies, and even as a device for tricking the enemy. Either way, she concedes the red cross emblem, once seemingly untouchable, is now disrespected in many conflict situations.
“When I arrived, I saw the fresh bullet holes in the walls of the hospital,” Hood continued. “There were many stories of missing healthcare workers, which I presume means they are missing for good.” Hood heard of up to 25 incidents of this nature and alarmingly, there are many people who feel too threatened to give any information at all of attacks."