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."

 

Egypt Christians bury victims with tears, anger

UN says nations bombing IS must protect civilians

Palestinians end mass hunger strike in Israel jails

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Syria girls escape war with Snow White

Egypt hits jihadists as IS claims deadly attack on Christians

Britain arrests two more in Manchester attack probe

Turkey charges opposition newspaper staff

Death toll in Tripoli clashes reaches 52

Hundreds of migrants rescued in major operation off Libya

Ramadan in Libya: little cash, much violence

UN braces for up to 200,000 Iraqis to flee Mosul

Iraq forces launch broad attack on IS holdouts in Mosul

Civilians flee IS-held Syria cities after deadly strikes

At least 28 dead in Tripoli clashes

26 killed in attack on Egypt Christians

Turkey identifies 'intelligence weaknesses' before coup attempt

Tunisia opens trial over 2015 beach massacre

Syria army takes control of key road

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US

Britain probes jihadist network amid row with US intelligence

Egypt blocks several media websites including Jazeera

IS suicide bomber kills five in Somalia

Israel uneasy over 'crazy' regional arms race

Algeria president replaces Prime Minister

16 civilians dead in coalition strikes near Raqa

4 arrested in Tunisia anti-corruption drive

German MPs call off Turkey visit as tensions fester

Palestinian hunger strike row draws solidarity, controversy

Britain raises terror alert, deploys troops after concert massacre

Qatar probes state news agency hack

At least 20 migrants killed in Mediterranean

Israeli joy at Trump visit lacks substance

Oman evacuates Australian man from Yemen

Bahrain police open fire on Shiite protest, kill five

Turkey arrests hunger strikers on terror charges