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“There was a seemingly endless line of civilian cars and ambulances carrying a vast number of dead and injured"

Two doctors from northwest Syria report on their work after the quake

As the ground began to shake in the early morning hours of February 6 in Türkiye and Syria, the doctors of Malteser International-supported hospitals in northwest Syria prepared for the worst: “Our medical staff rushed to the hospital, where they encountered the harrowing horrors of this catastrophe. There was a seemingly endless line of civilian cars and ambulances transporting a vast number of dead and injured”, reports Dr. Moheeb Kaddour, medical director at Atmeh Charitable Hospital, which is run by “Hand in Hand for Aid in Development” (HIHFAD), a Syrian partner organization of Malteser International. Hundreds of people were hospitalized with severe bleeding, bruising, and massive injuries to their limbs, chest, head, and spine after the earthquake.

"Most of these injuries were diverse with numerous fractures affecting the limbs, pelvis, head and spine, as well as chest and abdominal injuries. After a preliminary triaging according to the severity of injuries, there were emergency cases which required immediate intervention. Other cases were referred to other specialists for further management, to be returned for orthopedic treatment at a later stage. There were numerous cases of wounds, bruises and simple fractures that were treated” reports Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khatib, who works as an orthopedic surgeon at Armanaz Surgical Hospital, also run by HIHFAD with support from Malteser International. 

Operations in complete darkness, without electricity, in extremely cold weather

“We gave it our all in these first few days to save as many lives as possible”, explains Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khatib as he reflects on the situation at Armanaz Hospital. “Today we started the second phase: on one hand we treat people’s fractures, on the other we want to support their mental health.” Malteser International currently supports six hospitals, one maternity clinic with children’s hospital, as well as eight primary health care centers in the regions of Idlib and North Aleppo in northwestern Syria. The aid projects in the Syrian border region are managed from Türkiye. 

Among the rescued patients at Atmeh Charitable Hospital is 9-year-old Seba, who endured under the ruins of her house in Idlib for eight hours until she was rescued with her family. At the hospital she received the necessary medical care. Seba and her family are now in good health and safety. To save lives like that of little Seba, emergency-, civil defense- and volunteer teams as well as medical staff in hospitals in northwestern Syria are working - with very limited resources and in the most difficult conditions - tirelessly beyond the limits of their capacity: “Imagine that it is the year 2023 and that we are operating in total darkness, without electricity, in extremely cold weather, and with a lack of logistical support and medical supplies that have persisted for years”, says Dr. Moheeb Kaddour. His appeal is urgent: “Please continue the support. Please don’t abandon the people here”. 

(February 2023)

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