Arab war victims get glimpse of hope in Jordan NGO facility
Amman - Mustafa Irshaid, 14, lost his right arm when a missile exploded outside his father’s restaurant in the southern Syria border town of Deraa, but he yearns to play football again.
“It doesn’t matter if I play with artificial parts as long as I can play football again and be able to … kick the ball,” said Mustafa, beaming a charming smile and sporting a jogging suit and one shoe as he sat in a wheelchair.
Mustafa is one of 174 Arab war victims receiving free treatment at a new facility in Amman run by Doctors without Borders, known by its French initials of MSF.
The patients — of all ages and from all walks of life — come from conflict-stricken parts of the Arab world, such as the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, where medical equipment and supplies, as well as advanced surgery techniques, are often lacking.
The MSF facility, known as the Specialized Hospital for Reconstructive Surgery, has a $12 million annual budget and operates out of the Al-Muwasa Hospital. The facility is bigger and better equipped than the premises MSF had used since 2006 at Jordan’s Red Crescent Hospital.
The new facility was inaugurated September 8th in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the Jordanian health minister, city dignitaries, MSF staff, patients and the media.
“The new hospital is unique in all aspects because it hosts surgeons, counsellors and physiotherapists specialised in war victims,” MSF’s Jordan mission chief Marc Schakal said.
He said the Al-Muwasa Hospital is equipped with the latest technology and is ready to obtain more modern machines should the need arise. He said 3D printing of replacement body parts will soon be offered. At the new facility, MSF has added advanced services, such as specialised surgical care, physiotherapy and psycho-social support.
Schakal emphasised MSF has seen “a lot of complicated cases but, due to the experienced staff we have, we managed to save many lives. Some patients were destined to have an amputated limp but we managed to reverse that and save their limbs.”
Launching its first facility in Jordan in 2006, MSF has provided advanced surgical care for adults and children wounded during unrest in their home countries.
Since August 2006, more than 3,700 Arab patients have been treated by MSF in Jordan. The average stay for patients is four months but more complicated cases can require some to remain for longer periods of intensive and successive reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation.
Iraqi patient Ahmed Khalifa, 15, said he underwent 22 plastic surgeries at the old MSF facility in Jordan to treat first-degree burns on his face, neck, arms and much of his body inflicted in a 2010 car blast outside his school north of Baghdad.
“I’ve been at the MSF facility for more than four years, so it has become a second home for me,” the soft-spoken boy said.
However, he added, that he went through a “tough time forgetting what happened”.
“It’s been too painful,” he said.
Ahmed’s French doctor, who declined to be identified in line with hospital regulations, said the boy was scheduled for another series of plastic surgery, starting in the third week of September. “In the end, his facial and body skin would look much better,” the doctor said.
MSF figures show that from 2006 and until July 2015, its hospital facilities admitted more than 3,700 people wounded in conflict. MSF conducted 8,238 surgeries and offered 134,620 physiotherapy sessions and 45,660 psychosocial consultations.
According to Schakal, most injuries are from bullets, roadside bombs and exploding barrels, which can inflict severe damage to bones and skin tissue.
Recently, three Jordanian hospitals admitted dozens of Yemenis wounded in the war in their country.
Schakal said MSF was not competing with other hospitals but rather sharing expertise and offering assistance.
“The region’s conflicts and wars are having horrible effects on many people and the need for a specialised hospital to treat such war-related injuries is high and we really do hope that we will be able to save as many as possible,” he added.
In an emotional note, Schakal recalled a recent case involving a four-year old Syrian boy who lost his parents, one of his sisters and a cousin after a barrel bomb fell on their home in Syria’s north-eastern Deir ez-Zor province.
“The child suffered severe injuries to his hip, leg and head,” Schakal said. Following initial treatment in a field hospital in his village, his grandmother brought him to Jordan, where both ended up at a refugee camp straddling the northern Syrian border.
“We found him there and brought him for immediate medical care,” Schakal said. “Today, after several surgeries, he is able to stand and walk a bit with the help of crutches.
“It was simply a miracle in waiting.”