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Syria: "It’s MSF’s incredible Syrian staff who are treating these patients and saving lives"
Humanitarian aid in northern Syria is significantly inadequate. After seven years of war, closed borders, and limited health services, the public health situation is precarious.
In the past six months, the nature of the crisis in Northern Syria has changed. People in Raqqa who had been displaced by horrific violence, are now returning to find their homes destroyed and their streets littered with landmines and booby-traps, the unexploded remnants of war.
MSF emergency medical teams are treating the wounded. Many of our patients present with blast injuries.
In Raqqa, it is innocuous actions that can result in life-changing injuries or even death; the flick of a light switch, the opening of a door, a misplaced step. Faced with injuries like lost limbs, severe soft tissue damage and haemorrhage, our doctors are providing critical life-saving trauma care.
"In just one week in January we saw 33 blast injuries as a result of mines and IEDs. Mostly it’s MSF’s incredible Syrian staff who are treating these patients and saving lives."
In November 2017, after the fighting subsided, MSF became one of the only organisations to start operating inside the city. We are providing medical assistance through a trauma stabilisation point and primary healthcare unit capable of stabilising hundreds of victims of blast injuries. The blasts often affect the city’s most vulnerable. The youngest victim we have treated was 3, the oldest, 71. The MSF emergency room was set up to respond to the medical needs of those returning home to the embattled city. Through the rapid and skilled response of the ER team, between November 2017 and March 2018, 427 patients with severe blast injuries have been treated.
"We are giving people some hope, and that is the important thing to understand. Although some of the threat has been removed it is not over."
MSF also operates the surgical unit in Tal Abyad Hospital. Two hours north of Raqqa, it is the only hospital in the area and the main referral centre for those coming from the city.
With more residents returning every day, people’s medical needs in Raqqa remain urgent.
For our patients, MSF’s facilities in Raqqa and across Northern Syria are often a ray of hope, the difference between life and death.
“Booby traps and other improvised explosive devices have been planted throughout the city, many of them quite sophisticated, with heat and motion sensors and trip wires, operating on time delays. They had planted them in houses, in cupboards, under beds – everywhere you could think of.”