Translating Humanitarian Emergency into Medical Aid in Syria

Claire Glasscoe


Dr Salah pointing to a fashion conscious 4 year-old girl, featured on his poster who wanted a pair of bright red prostheses to match the colour of her dress

Dr Salah is the founding director of the project, which has grown in strength and capacity since its inception in June 2013. He is an orthopaedic surgeon living and working in the UK and has a pragmatic approach to what the service can deliver given the level of need. His main aim is to ensure that as many amputees and paraplegics as possible are able to recover their mobility and their independence so they are no longer confined to a bed, can work, attend school or college and make a dignified contribution to their family. follow the link to donate to this project.

Each consultation in the clinic involves a range of staff with a variety of roles.

'Bassaym' lost the use of three limbs when he moved an unexploded bomb that fell inside his village in Idleb at the beginning of the civil war. He has two prostheses and one orthosis so requires a co-ordinated approach from the team of technicians.

These devices have enabled 'Bassaym' to regain his independence and he now rides a motorbike, drives a car and runs a business. His only remaining wish is to have an athletic prosthesis so that he can run.
'Walid' has waited 3 1/2 years to stand unaided after losing both legs in Deir ez-Zur

'Walid' lost his legs at the beginning of the conflict when a MiG plane opened fire on a civilian area in Deir ez-Zor. The location of his home made it difficult for him to access any health service. He is only now being fitted with prostheses after borrowing money to travel to Turkey illegally.

It was not possible to travel cross-country in a wheelchair so part of the way he walked on his hands and swam across a gully. He is staying in a refugee camp until it is safe to return to Syria
A mother who talks about her daughter's anger and the pain in her heart

People with guns frighten 12-year-old 'Rasha' and when she hears a plane she stops what she is doing and freezes.

'Hanan' says her daughter was a happy, bright girl doing well at school before her injury. Now her sisters play with her and carry her. She has not been to school since the bomb exploded in Idleb and her behaviour at home is difficult. 'Hanan' doesn't blame 'Rasha' for being angry as she is the one most affected by these events.
12-year old 'Marwan' will need a new prosthesis each year as he grows

'Marwan' was playing marbles with his friends when the bomb fell in their village in Halab. When he visits Turkey for orthopaedic work he is also assessed for his educational progress. At twelve 'Marwan' is open and mature beyond his years. He hasn't been attending school and has fallen behind with his writing skills but is keen to work and has found a pharmacy where he can help with the business.
Abd al Mowla has both sides of the story

This young man was excited by the prospect of coming to the clinic in Reyhanli as a patient 2 1/2 years ago after having his left leg amputated above the knee. He is now part of the team of technicians working in Turkey and Syria, as a trainee and is enrolled with other members of the team on the training in prosthetics course at Ankara University. He dreams about one day having a new microprocessor-controlled knee joint, a Genium, as it would enhance his strength and maneuverability when he works with patients.