In Ghouta: People with War-Related Disabilities are Struggling for Life
“I got a major injury when a mortar shell hit my bedroom while I was sleeping. It killed my husband and mutilated my left leg. The stretcher that carried me was broken on the way to the hospital, which worsened the injury and shattered the bones of the injured foot. I underwent a leg amputation surgery in Zamalka Hospital. Due to the intense shelling, I was transferred to Hamouriyah Hospital. I completed my treatment in Dar Al Shifa Hospital. I had to go through a number of urgent surgeries, which were carried out at intervals as a result of shelling.”
The story of Khadija, 19 years old, did not end here. When the stabilizers were removed, it was the time to fit the prosthetic. The artificial joint was purchased from Lebanon and, then, admitted to Damascus. Concerned organizations had to pay considerable royalties to pass it to the besieged Ghouta.
After hearing Khadija’s story, “Molham Volunteering” Team’s donors paid for the joint. Currently, she is making her first attempts at walking.
“I was pregnant when I got the injury. Two months after giving birth, the schools were open in Ghouta. So, I decided to continue my education and to get the high school certificate, the scientific branch. This came after I was forced to stop going to school because of the war injury,” Khadija continues talking with a high sense of hope and determination, “Currently, I am waiting to go back to school, for schools have been shut down due to the intense bombardment on eastern Ghouta. Everything has stopped in Ghouta as a result for the shelling, only field hospitals are working [. . .]”.
Khadija is one of hundreds of thousands of people whom war has forced to have an exceptional life style, imposing on them pains and responsibilities that might exceed their abilities. This war has spared no one and almost burned everyone, leaving a physical trace on some people, that turned in time into a disability, one that could have been simple if needed treatment and remedies were available, remedies that are only a few meters away from Ghouta.
Alaa, who lives in the town of Kafr Batna, says: I became a breadwinner for my family that consists of five people, after my father got paralyzed being hit by a mortar shell. I am 20 years old now and work as a teacher. We do not have any source of support but God [. . .]”.
Three Million Syrians with “War-Related Injuries”
The latest statistics by the “World Health Organization” (WHO), published in mid-January 2017, indicate that more than three million people have been injured since the beginning of the war in 2011, at a rate of 3o thousand injury per month.
The report which the WHO has issued in cooperation with the “International Organization of People with Disabilities” denotes that, out of the three million mentioned above, one and half a million have permeant disabilities, 86 thousand of them are amputees; the report also indicated that one third is children.
The dire restrictions on medical care turned many of the injuries that people have into life long disabilities, according to the report which confirmed that these disabilities could have been prevented if these people had the needed treatment at the right time.
Increasing Needs and Declining Services
With the war’s long period, the action of the organizations that are involved with injured and people with war-related disabilities declined in the opposition-held areas due to the lack of funding, the high costs which long treatment requires and the expenses of protheses, for the expenses of fitting a primitive prothesis is 1500 dollars, while an intelligent prothesis would cost about 60 thousand dollars, which is a very high sum if compared with the number of people who need them.
Zakaria is one of the people who got injured in Ghouta and whose injury turned into a permeant disability due to a medical error. Being his family’s only breadwinner, he describes the dire humanitarian situation that wounded people are suffering under the siege imposed on Ghouta and the cold weather that hit the area.
Zakaria says that injured people mostly need food and warmth, but the current situation makes providing the bottom line of daily needs the most difficult.
“Only the injured would feel the suffering of the injured (. . . ) cold is increasing our agony and pain; most of the injured people are burning their clothes to keep warm,” he added.
Zakaria said: “Heating needs firewood, which today costs 300 Syrian pounds for each kilo, a sum of money that injured people cannot afford. As for food, we wait for the organizations’ aid, in the form of food baskets that we receive every two months.”
Associations Offering Services to war-Injured People in Ghouta
Health Touch for Disabled Association
The association provides its services for about 800 to 850 injured people, according to the public relations director’s statement to Enab Baladi.
He explained that the provided services include monthly monetary support, in addition to food, health and medical aid that is offered according to the injured, his/her family’s needs and the association’s resources.
The association also offers devices to the people who have motor disabilities, such as wheel chairs, crutches and walking equipment, as well as physical therapy services.
The association’s members also conduct visits to the injured people’s houses, in addition to organizing activities that offer psychological support and entertainment, including parties and awareness journeys for children with disabilities.
Included Types of Injuries:
Quadriplegia, paraplegia, limb amputation, cerebral palsy, mental disability, Wilson disease, Peters disease, cancer, anemia, paralysis of the upper or lower limbs, blindness, very severe malnutrition which may lead to disability.
About the challenges that are facing the association, Mohammad pointed out that the siege imposed on Ghouta is on top of these difficulties that are hindering the association’s work, which results in great difficulty in securing the most needed specific substances, in addition to the lack of support and resources allocated to civilian casualties, as well as the risk of the shelling that makes no exception of civilian areas.
Spinal Cord Injuries Rehabilitation Center
The center has developed a program for the rehabilitation of the injured people and integrating them into society, in the shadow of the absent solutions needed to serve this segment of society.
The center provides physical therapy and health care for about 500 injured people.
The center’s activities include physical, psychological, scientific and practical rehabilitation, in addition to Arabic and English languages, as well as computer skills courses.
Farha for Prosthetic
For more than two years, Farha foundation has been working in Eastern Ghouta, providing its services for lower limb amputees, through a technical team that has underwent scientific and training courses inside and outside Ghouta with the supervision of prosthetic engineers and specialists, according to Mohammed Jaber Mohieddin, the foundation’s media sector director.
Mohieddin pointed out that the foundation has so far provided prostheses for 600 people and physical therapy for 900 people, explaining that the latest statistics about amputees in Eastern Ghouta showed that the number has reached 2500 people.
Mohammad attributed the foundation’s inability to provide services to all the casualties due to the high costs of transportation to the foundation, which not all the patients are able to afford. In addition to the difficulty of attaining the raw materials for the prostheses that can be manufactured inside Ghouta and the high prices of the materials that should be admitted to Ghouta, as well as local obstacles such as the high prices of fuel and security difficulties due to the constant shelling on Ghouta.
As for the services which the foundation provides, they start with offering physical therapy immediately after the injury to prepare the body and the affected muscle to receive the prosthesis. After that, the foundation provides sports rehabilitation before manufacturing and fitting the prosthesis, as well as training the amputee to using the device in his or her daily life.