Red Cross hospital treats Syrian refugee girl with months-old bullet wound

Gwen Eamer, Canadian Red Cross / IFRC
"We’re just kids, we just want to be like other kids, to play and live a safe life at home," Amnah says.
Image: Gwen Eamer, Canadian Red Cross / IFRC

Nine-year-old Amnah arrived at the Azraq Syrian refugee camp in eastern Jordan scared and in pain. She had already spent three months being bumped from house to house, community to community, before being shuttled across Syria’s southern border with Jordan in the hopes of reaching safety – and medical care.

Now one of nearly 12,000 Syrian refugees living in the Azraq camp, she has yet to see her new home, meet her neighbours or visit her future school. Instead, she has spent her first 10 days at Azraq in the Red Cross Red Crescent hospital, where the medical team is helping her to heal from a three-month-old gunshot wound.

Amnah and her brother Ibrahim, 11, were each shot in the leg while walking to their uncle’s August wedding in their hometown of Daraa, in Syria’s south-west. Many families in Daraa have fled to Jordan, Lebanon or other communities in Syria to escape the ongoing conflict, which started when Amnah was six.

Many public hospitals and health centres are out of service

Getting medical care for Amnah and Ibrahim in Syria was next to impossible, with 60 per cent of the country’s public hospitals and half of its health centres completely or partially out of service. With the bullet leaving an open fracture on Amnah’s leg, her medical needs were too complex for what local health services remained.

With an average of 25,000 injuries from the conflict each month, combined with severe shortages in basic medical supplies for surgery and anaesthesia, power outages and the physical destruction of health facilities, Syrians like Amnah often go without the critical care they need. Preventable complications like gangrene, blood infections and organ failure are on the rise.

- Amnah’s road to physical and psychological recovery is a long one, but the hospital’s staff are hopeful. “Although she had had some care before she came to us, she desperately needed better treatment, says Kari Vanamo, a Finnish Red Cross doctor.

- We were able to clean and cover her open wound with a skin graft. Given the extent of her injury, her physical recovery so far is very lucky.

“We’re just kids"

Ibrahim is also being treated for the effects of his wounds, by a partner organization that runs primary care clinics in the camp’s ‘villages’. If his injuries later require it, he can also be transferred to the Red Cross hospital for more specialised care.

- My family is here to keep me company, but I get bored being injured. I just want to run and play outside, says Amnah. Her aunt Badriah, who sits with her in the ward to keep her company, has a different take on things. “I’m just thankful she could finally get help. Three months with an open gunshot wound, that is no life for a child, she says.

Amnah is looking forward to the day that she can leave the hospital to meet other children in her new community.

- We’re just kids, we just want to be like other kids, to play and live a safe life at home, she says.

That life continues to look far away for Amnah and Ibrahim, who recently learned that their father, who remains in Syria, was also recently shot.