The Azraq hospital has already received a thousand patients

Emil Helotie
Emil Helotie
Emil Helotie

Most of the patients in the Red Cross Azraq hospital are Syrian children and mothers in labour. Several Finnish aid workers work in the hospital built in Jordania.

Over 20 children have been born in the Azraq hospital. Layla Mahmoud, a Jordanian midwife, confidently handles the newest baby, the second daughter of Zahra Muhammed Ali, 22. Mahmoud has a long career in a military hospital behind her and she says she loves aid work. Her happiness can be seen and heard: she teaches Arabic words to the Finnish workers and laughs easily.

– I’d dreamed of working in the Red Cross for a long time, and finally, here we are! I haven’t worked with foreigners before, but the Finnish are very nice to work with, says Mahmoud.

– Typically, the first operation or event in a field hospital is childbirth or a problem related to it, and that happened here, as well. On the first day, when the hospital opened, we had two C-sections, says surgeon Kari Vanamo.

The war is visible on the patients

Although there are happy moments in the Azraq hospital every day, the patients carry the physical and emotional marks of the Syrian war.

– There are old war injuries from Syria, and then there are completely common illnesses that usually increase significantly in refugee camp conditions. Some patients have neurological symptoms and other more special illnesses, says Vanamo.

The healthcare quality in Syria was quite high before the war. Now, many chronic illnesses have gone untreated.

– For example, many haven’t received treatment for diabetes. As a consequence, the Syrians have infections and, for example, ulcers in their feet that have been treated in our hospital, as well, Vanamo states.

The Azraq hospital is more similar to a Finnish regional hospital than to a field hospital sent to a disaster zone. The hospital and the administrational building are fixed constructions instead of tents.

– At the moment, this is pretty much normal hospital work. In the morning, we have a common breakfast and then the rounds in different wards, after which we start the polyclinic work. The local doctors are mainly responsible for that, Vanamo explains.

An interesting work experience for the Finnish

Anaesthetics nurse Pirjo Uski, working for the first time as a Red Cross delegate, did not know what to expect, but has not regretted leaving.

– The work has been partly familiar and partly such that you get to use every skill you have learned in life.

She had dreamed of aid work for a long time and she took the basic course approximately five years ago.

– I just have this fire inside for doing this kind of work, and the follow-up trainings always make me even more excited. I’m so happy to be here, Uski laughs at the end of the workday.