A clinic for war-wounded Syrians in northern Jordan is being forced to close just six months after Jordan shut its borders with Syria. At the clinic in Zaatari refugee camp, some 80 km northeast of Amman, Médecins Sans Frontières provided post-operative care to refugees recovering from surgery carried out in nearby Ramtha and other hospitals. Walid Shbat, 30, lost his leg after being injured by a barrel bomb in Dara’a, southern Syria, and shares his story.
“3 December 2015 was a day that will forever be carved in my memory. On that Thursday, I learnt that my younger brother had been seriously injured by a projectile, so I hurried to the field hospital where he had been taken. Ten minutes after I arrived, my brother was carried into a waiting vehicle to be transported to Jordan, as his injuries were complex and medical capacity in the area was limited. As I stood next to the vehicle, a helicopter hovered in the sky above my head and moments later, barrel bombs crashed to the ground. The air was filled with shrapnel and one piece penetrated my leg and lodged there, fracturing my right femur.
"As I stood next to the vehicle, a helicopter hovered in the sky above my head and moments later, barrel bombs crashed to the ground"
The doctors in the field hospital were unable to treat my injury, so I was transferred to another field hospital nearby. The next day, the resident doctor decided to transfer me to Jordan, as medical staff inside Syria were unable to treat me. One hour later, I reached the Jordanian border, from where an ambulance transported me to Ramtha hospital. In the operating theatre, the medical team tirelessly attempted to save my leg, but they couldn’t. On the second day it was decided that my leg should be amputated.
After the operation, I stayed in hospital for three months, as my condition required follow-up, my wounds needed to be cleaned and my dressings changed. Afterwards, I was transferred to Médecins Sans Frontières’s clinic in Zaatari camp. I noticed a great change – a shift in my psychological as well as my physical situation – in Zaatari. I found the familial atmosphere that I had longed for. In Zaatari, I had my space and my freedom, and I reunited with my brother and with the new friends I had made during my stay in Ramtha. The clinic and its medical staff played a major role in the improvements I felt. There were many activities in the clinic that calmed the feelings of exile inside me, and the cruelty and severity of my injury.
Soon the day arrived when I had completed my medical treatment and received my prosthesis. It was time for me to go home to Syria. Despite all that has happened – the cold, brutal injury and the loss of my leg – my time in Zaatari clinic had a major impact on my life. It showed me what good medical care looks like; it provided me with psychological support and boosted my morale; all of the staff treated me with respect. I am not exaggerating when I say that the place and the people are wonderful. I consider myself luckier than a lot of other Syrians who have serious injuries but have been unable to reach Jordan for treatment. In Syria, under current conditions, it is impossible to get the kind of medical treatment available in Jordan – particularly since the barbaric and systematic targeting of hospitals, and the drain of medical expertise from the country.”