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    Libya In Vitro: Recovering from War (And Getting Pregnant, Too)

    Written by

    Matt Yoka

    After Libya's revolution in 2011, tens of thousands of citizens wounded in bloody guerilla battles needed good hospitals and doctors the war-torn country didn't have. As a quick fix, the interim government established a medical program for Libya's patients, sending them to some 44 countries with the promise that their medical bills would be covered. And because of its historic ties with Libya and its quality, under-utilized medical facilities, Jordan quickly became the top destination for Libya's post-revolution wounded. Beginning soon after the death of Gaddafi in October 2011, Amman's hospitals and hotels saw an influx of Libyans--some dozen per week were arriving at one point--and soon, a mounting tab of IOUs from Libya.

    But the war-wounded weren't the only ones getting a free ride. Amidst the dysfunction of the transitional government, many non-fighting Libyans took advantage of the system, using loopholes to receive treatment for non-war related injuries. Among some 60,000 total patients, an estimated majority of Libyans took advantage of Jordan's expertise in dentistry, plastic surgery and in vitro fertilization. If you're in the market for getting pregnant with a test tube, it turns out there are few better times for medical tourism than after your dictator of thirty years is removed through a violent uprising. Apart from Israel (which happens to provide free IVF to its citizens, all the time), Jordan boasts some of the best IVF care in the Middle East. In all, thousands of Libyan women were treated for IVF, some of them twice if need be, on the government's bill.

    Last summer, Motherboard met Mohammed and Nadia, a couple from Tripoli who had left their distressed home for six months to live in Jordan, where they hoped to conceive through in vitro fertilization with the help of one of the region's best doctors, and full government backing, as promised. Though they hadn't been hurt in the war, they considered it the government's duty to pay for their treatment. "We came here with their support, with their understanding that they would pay our bills," said Nadia.

    The process would turn out to be much more costly than they could have imagined. Libya's medical debt to Jordan's exasperated hotels and hospitals have piled up (at last count, Libya owes about 170 million to Jordan's hospitals and $100 million to its hotels) while political turmoil and sectarian violence has cast a shadow over the newly liberated country. It would not be an easy pregnancy.