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."

 

Kurds ready for contentious vote in Iraq

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Iran defies US, tests missile

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The Sahara Forest Project, Jordan’s innovative water scheme

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US

A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia?

Saudi intercepts missile fired from Yemen

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq

US, Iranian top diplomats confront each other for first time

Air strikes kill 22 civilians in northwest Syria in 48 hours

Iranian supreme leader lashes out at Trump UN speech

Thousands of Huthi supporters mark 3 years since Sanaa takeover

Iraq attacks all remaining IS territory at once

Moscow accuses US of hitting Syrian regime forces

Turkey jails lawyers representing hunger striking teachers

Turkey, Iran and Iraq make joint threat against Kurd vote

Syrian Kurds to hold first local elections in federal push

Qatari expats lauded as statesmen by Arab critics

Shipwreck off Libyan coast leaves over 100 migrants missing

Will Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish state translate into action?

US ups the ante on Iraq Kurds

Macron: Iran nuclear deal no longer enough

Trump’s mind made up on Iran but refuses to divulge