Emirati hospital offers aid to Indonesian volcano victims

Medical facility set up by Zayed Giving Initiative treats displaced children and elderly affected by the Mount Merapi eruption.

DUBAI // A field hospital in Indonesia established by an Emirati medical group aims to provide care for thousands of people affected by Mount Merapi.

The country's most active volcano erupted on October 26, killing more than 250 people and leaving 400,000 displaced.

Last week, the chief executive of the Zayed Giving Initiative, Dr Adel al Shamry, and his team arrived in the central Java-region, close to Mount Merapi, and set up the UAE International Humanitarian Field Children's Hospital.

The facility is now providing free treatment to about 300 people every day. The focus is on providing assistance to children and elderly people who are staying in the camps created for those displaced by the volcano.

"So far, we have seen around 1,500 people, but we are aiming to reach 6,000 people," Dr al Shamry said. "We are there to make sure the children and elderly have access to care."

According to Dr al Shamry, the team has been dealing primarily with respiratory problems brought on in some instances by volcanic ash, skin conditions such as burns, as well as cases of stomach complaints.

There are 35 doctors and nurses stationed at the hospital, including 20 from the Zayed Giving Initiative. The unit was set up in partnership with Indonesian relief organisations.

"Through this team, we established the field hospital 25 kilometres from the volcano," said Dr al Shamry, an Emirati heart surgeon, who launched the Zayed Giving Initiative in 2003.

The field hospital has an emergency unit, a clinic, pharmacy, and mobile units - two doctors and two nurses who travel to more remote areas to reach people in need of medical care.

At the main site, the team has also set up what Dr al Shamry described as a "support and entertainment unit".

"This is to create a social programme, especially for the children," he said. "The whole idea is to add to the medical services and to keep the children entertained and help them psychologically after all the stress."

The field hospital was put up in a camp for internally displaced people, just outside the 20 km "danger zone", which the Indonesian government enforced around Mount Merapi.

"The volcano really had a dramatic impact on the surrounding areas, in terms of the destruction," said Dr al Shamry, who has just returned from Indonesia, which has been left reeling by a series of natural disasters in recent weeks.

More than 400 people were killed and thousands left homeless after a tsunami was triggered by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck close to the Mentawai island chain off Sumatra on October 25.

The UAE International Humanitarian Field Children's Hospital is expected to remain in Indonesia for the next month before moving on to the Indian state of Kerala. The hospital was previously stationed in Pakistan, to respond to the medical needs of those displaced by the floods that swept across the country at the end of July.

The Field Children's Hospital, under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the wife of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, was established earlier this year as a satellite branch of the UAE International Humanitarian Mobile Hospital, which is on a six-month stint in Morocco.

The medical facility in Indonesia is supported by a fund established as part of the Zayed Giving Initiative's "One Million Giving" campaign, which has generated more than Dh15 million from Government, private and NGO donors.

The campaign aims to provide free medical care to one million children worldwide over the next three years.