Gift of the Givers cross into Syria, medics start their work

2013-04-16 00:00

DARKOUSH (Syria) — A Gift of the Givers team led by Dr Imtiaaz Sooliman yesterday crossed the border from Turkey into Syria to render medical care to people displaced by that country’s civil war.

The group of 45 South African medical staff avoided border posts to reach the hospital at Darkoush, after fighting in the area on Sunday forced them to delay their arrival.

Sooliman divided his team into smaller units to lessen the chance of Syrian government forces — which are opposed to their relief work — stopping them.

Although the South African relief workers reached their destination without incident, wound specialist Liz Willson-Chandler and theatre sister Salma Karolia were obviously relieved to be in the safe, familiar confines of a hospital.

For them the real mission starts today, when Sooliman expects a stream of patients to start arriving as news spreads that the hospital can now treat more people in the war-ravaged area.

Outside the hospital, men armed with AK47 assault rifles are constantly on guard.

The mixture of injuries that greeted the relief workers yesterday presented them with no difficulties.

It included aftercare following a difficult birth, a convalescing six-year-old who had been injured in a mortar attack, and a boy who cut his lip while playing.

The convalescing boy, Mohammad bin Qarqor (6), clutched a coin and a banknote in his small fist as he lay in the intensive care ward. An interpreter told the nurse that Mohammad had been wounded in the stomach during a mortar attack. His mother gave him the money to hold to encourage him.

He will be discharged next week.

In the ward next door, an ashen-faced teenage mother could not take her eyes off her new baby, swaddled in a red blanket on the bed next to her.

The 15-year-old had lost a lot of blood during the difficult birth and was rushed to hospital on the same day that new hope was born for the hospital with the Givers’ arrival.

With them, they brought more than R4 million in equipment from South Africa.

In the casualty ward, Yasmin, the mother of Mohammad bin Osama, was overwhelmed by the news-hungry media contingent when she arrived to have her toddler’s lip seen to.

He fell while playing in the garden of his home in a neighbouring town and suffered a deep cut.

Asked how the hospital had taken care of her son, she said through an interpreter: “It is the perfect hospital”.

•Reporter Le Roux Schoeman and photographer Felix Dlangamandla are accompanying the Gift of the Givers to Syria.

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