Refugee camp life deals health blows to Retaj

In 2015, the Big Heart Foundation Clinic started its operations in Al Zaatari Camp to provide around-the-clock healthcare services to nearly 80,000 refugees free of charge.
Retaj Atma, 3, and her brother Omar at the Zaatari Refugee Camp.  Thaer Zriqat / The National
Retaj Atma, 3, and her brother Omar at the Zaatari Refugee Camp. Thaer Zriqat / The National

AL ZAATARI CAMP, JORDAN // Life in a refugee camp has not been easy on little Retaj Al Atma, 3.

With her brother Omar and mother Jamila Al Atma, 32, the toddler has to walk half an hour under the scorching sun to seek treatment at the Big Heart Foundation Clinic.

“She suffers from chronic sinusitis, tonsil hypertrophy and nasolacrimal duct obstruction,” said Mrs Al Atma, who fled Syria for Jordan five years ago.

“We are here for treatment and to schedule her for surgery.”

Respiratory illnesses and sinus infections are common in the camp, and body lice have been found, according to clinic staff.

“The nature of the area here contributes to those illnesses, which can intensify during the change of season,” said Khayriya Al Rosan, a receptionist at the clinic.

In 2015, the clinic started operating in the Zaatari Refugee Camp to provide free 24-hour health care to 80,000 people.

It has managed to do so thanks to Dh30 million the UAE raised and donated.

Each day, the clinic receives about 600 patients on average.

“This clinic has an ambulance service to aid those who can’t reach the clinic,” said Dr Yaroup Aklouni, president of the Jordan Health Aid Society.

“We also have a central laboratory, which offers vaccinations to the refugees.”

The clinic also provides medication for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

It has a staff of 180 doctors, nurses and workers from Jordan and Syria.

“As a clinic, we can perform any procedures or operations that use local anaesthesia,” Dr Aklouni said.

“As for those that require general anaesthesia, such as open-heart surgery, they are carried out in hospitals outside the camp and paid for by the clinic.”

The clinic has helped to deliver 7,400 babies but Caesarean sections take place in nearby hospitals.

On average, about 80 children are born each week in the camp.

In the clinic, Muna Yassin, 58, stood near a fan as she waited for her medication.

“I suffer from cervical and lumbar disc abnormalities, so I have been coming here for treatment and medication,” said the mother of three.

“In Syria, I didn’t have access to these kinds of medications.

“Sometimes I wait for a long time here, which is painful because of my condition. However, at least I get proper care and treatment in the clinic.”

Between last July and December, the clinic – which has primary, reproductive and nutrition healthcare units – exceeded its goals.

It notched up 108,000 primary healthcare consultations – 168 per cent of its target. The reproductive healthcare section more than doubled its target, providing consultations to 24,500 people. The nutrition unit assisted 13,000 people, exceeding its target of 8,000.

More than half of the refugees in the camp are children and it is vital that they are given the necessary medical care as early as possible, said Mariam Al Hammadi, director of the foundation, which is based in Sharjah.

Many of the children experienced acute psychological trauma from the deaths of their family members and the conflict in their country, she said.

Published: May 27, 2017 04:00 AM


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