First Published: 2017-04-07

Doctors treat their own in war-torn Mosul
Most of medical staff at Athbah field hospital is from Mosul as each one of victims they treat could be relative or neighbour.
Middle East Online

Most of the medical staff is from Mosul

MOSUL - Every time a patient is stretchered into the Athbah field hospital south of Mosul, doctor Sultan prays it isn't his sister or brother.

Most of the medical staff is from the war-torn Iraqi city and each one of the victims they treat could be a relative or a neighbour.

"It's very painful for us... Many people, many children, need amputations or will remain paralysed," he says from the small field hospital set up in Athbah, just a few miles south of Mosul.

Sultan, who chose not divulge his full name, fled Mosul when the Islamic State still controlled the city, which they made the de facto Iraqi capital of their now crumbling "caliphate".

But his siblings are trapped inside, in neighbourhoods of Mosul's west bank still held by the jihadists despite almost six months of fighting by the security forces to retake the city.

"I have no news," he said. "Daesh (IS) uses civilians as human shields and many buildings have been levelled by air strikes. They might be lying under the rubble and I don't know about it."

For now, the 43-year-old is treating a man in his forties with facial injuries.

"He's stable," he says, after feeling the pulse in the patient's bloodied wrist.

In the same room, Faruq Abdulkader is treating a teenager who is writhing in pain but was relatively lucky: "The bullet went straight through the arm without touching the bone," the doctor said, relieved.

These doctors used to work in Mosul but fled the tyrannic rule of the jihadists. Now that regular forces are wresting back Iraq's second city street by street, they are back to help.

The Athbah field hospital opened on March 24 with support from the World Health Organization and the Iraqi health authorities.

- 'Our neighbours' -

Abdulkader said most of the injuries they treated were caused by explosions but the hardest thing was often to witness the suffering of their own neighbours.

"Some of them are our neighbours, coming from the same area where I was living in Mosul, and I'm so sad for them," he said.

The fighting to retake what is now the last major IS stronghold in Iraq is taking its toll on civilians.

According to the United Nations, at least 307 of them were killed between February 17 and March 22, a period which only covers the first weeks of the offensive on west Mosul but not the entire operation that started in mid-October last year.

The 29-year-old Abdulkader says he feels lucky to be in a position to support the humanitarian effort because two of his fellow doctors were killed -- "one by the jihadists and the other in an air strike."

A patient is rushed in to the trauma unit, the third in half an hour. His face is entirely covered in bandages, bones visible all over his body.

The Mosul battle has lasted nearly six months and supplies have dwindled sharply as Iraqi forces secured the city's east bank and sealed their siege on the jihadists' last redoubts on the west side.

Basic goods have been unavailable for months and the little food that is left is either too expensive or hoarded by the jihadists.

"Nearly all our patients suffer from malnutrition," says Taryn Anderson, head nurse at the Athbah clinic. "We can't call it a famine but it's very alarming, especially for the children."

After examining the very weak patient who was just wheeled in, the doctors decide against a transfusion -- the precious blood they do have will be saved for other patients with a real chance of survival.

Ali Saad Abdulkhaled, a 26-year-old nurse who used to treat people in his home in east Mosul during the fighting there, said the number of wounded civilians was increasing sharply.

"The west side is more densely populated, it's the Old City," he said. "The number of victims is huge. They are our neighbours, our families."

 

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Saudi, UAE seeks to help West Africa fight terrorism

US skeptical about Putin's declaration of military victory in Syria

Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

UAE oil giant floats 10 percent of retail arm to strong interest

Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim

French FM accuses Iran of carving out ‘axis’ of influence

Somali journalist killed in front of children

Over 170 dead after South Sudan rival cattle herders clash

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

Russia weary of returning IS jihadists before World Cup, election

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant rights violations

Pentagon skeptical about Russia's Syria pullout claims

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Kuwait ruler’s son named defence minister

Jordan referred to UN for failing to arrest Sudanese president

Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

Netanyahu expects EU to follow suit on Jerusalem

Putin orders withdrawal of ‘significant’ amount of troops from Syria

Putin to meet with Sisi in Cairo

GCC at a critical juncture

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile

Morocco’s renewed ties with South Africa likely to consolidate support for Western Sahara stance

Lebanese security forces fire tear gas at protestors

Syria’s justice system: ‘working without a written law'

Egypt revives controversial desert capital project

Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to jail