In Lashkargah, we have received a particularly special letter that we would like to share with you all.
Isabella, a 6-year-old Swedish girl, sent us her notebook of drawings, and dedicated it to all the children who are patients at EMERGENCY's surgical centre in Lashkargah, Afghanistan.
Thank you, Isabella! In this week of armed conflict in Helmand province -- and of ceaseless work -- you have given us all a smile.
(September 27, 2016)
EMERGENCY SUSPENDS ACTIVITIES IN LIBYA
In the last few weeks, EMERGENCY has been present during serious episodes of violence on the part of local police forces inside the hospital in Gernada, in the east of Libya. EMERGENCY has, in agreement with the Libyan health ministry, paused its clinical activities in this region, while offering intervention in other parts of the country.
This was a difficult decision, above all in a moment of great uncertainty about how the country is moving forward. However, despite repeated reassurances by local authorities, in Gernada, the basic conditions were no longer fulfilled to guarantee patient or staff security.
“After having been present during repeated acts of violence by the local police, even towards our Libyan personnel, we have decided to suspend the hospital’s activities. We were not able to postpone this decision any longer, but we are more worried about the local population; the Libyan health care system has collapsed, and once again, it will be civilians who suffer the consequences of the chaos into which Libya has sunk since 2011,” says Emanuele Nannini, Deputy Coordinator of EMERGENCY’s Humanitarian Office.
EMERGENCY had opened its Surgical Centre in Gernada this past October 12, to treat people wounded in combat in the zones of Benghazi and Derna.
In 10 months at the Centre, our doctors and nurses treated 1,400 people. In this period, we were also busy training local staff in the management of war wounded. With our departure, the local staff and the hospital -- which had been completely restructured and equipped -- remains available to Libyan health authorities.
Together with the Libyan health ministry, EMERGENCY is evaluating various options to restart, as soon as possible, surgical support activities to the victims of war, in a different location.
(August 28, 2016)
One siren, then another; a helicopter and then another; all of them coming from the same direction. What is happening? The international workers of EMERGENCY glance around, expecting a call that arrives a few minutes later. “An attack on a hospital or a school – this is unclear – but let’s be ready.” It is just about dinnertime, we left the hospital a little while ago, some of us have had a moment to take a shower, and it is already time to return.
The sirens have changed direction, now coming towards us, and stop immediately in front of the hospital. Over the radio, Sara calls it a mass casualty; this means “everyone at their operational posts”. Each of us -- surgeons, cleaners, nurses, guards, stretcher carriers -- knows where to go and what to do. Sara goes to the triage area, pulls out the first aid kits, and lays down the mattresses; everything is ready. The wounded, however, are only arriving a few at a time – one, then two, then another two. It is better this way.
From the first stories the wounded tell us, we understand what happened. “The campus was full, we were all there!” says Daud, in perfect English. He is 26 years old, and was on the fourth floor when the Taliban blew up a wall and entered, opening fire.
“We hid ourselves, and put benches against the door, but they got inside anyway. One of them fired, and I thought, Look, these are my final moments… but then he left, and I was still alive.”
His friend pointed out two young men to him. “Are they dead?”
Then, a professor arrived, running.
“He told us to jump through the window, and that this was the only way to save ourselves. I did not know what to do. I thought that I could die from the fall.” It was then that the Taliban came back to his room.
“As soon as I heard the bang of gunfire, I stopped thinking entirely. I made a run for it, fast.” He dashed until he ran into a campus guard. “He was about to shoot me, I believe! He did not understand anything. I shouted, ‘I’m a student, I’m wounded, I need help!’ He protected me until medical help arrived.”
Daud came to the EMERGENCY hospital with “only” a fractured elbow. These quotation marks are required. “I do not believe that I will recover very quickly from this story.” Really, he is a handsome guy, with an intelligent and kind disposition, studying business administration. What are his plans for the future?
“I studied six years to get into this school! I truly believed, and still believe, that education is the key for us to become a good class, directed toward the future. I will tell the university dean, and all the teachers: we must not give in. Otherwise, all of this will be useless.”
The dean came to visit the students today. “A tragedy, a tragedy,” he said. A couple of weeks ago two professors from the school were kidnapped, and still there is no word of them. The dean thanked EMERGENCY for taking care of his students – “It is simply our job” – but he did not run into Daud. With “only” an elbow fracture, and discharged this morning, Daud is now happier and so are we, because our hospital was too full. We will see him again to follow up. When we, the staff, were greeting each other, we spoke about him. We all agree that the school must never, ever give in.
-- Cecilia Strada, EMERGENCY President, from Kabul
"I had tried to dissuade him in every way possible, but he is always so stubborn. I had told him that the trip was too dangerous, but he decided, nonetheless, to take it, eight months ago.
From Eritrea he went to Ethiopia, then to Sudan, and finally to Egypt, where he caught the boat that ended up arriving in Pozzallo.
It was hard to recognize him -- I had not seen him for nine years -- but I will never forget the moment I saw him alight from the ship.
He arrived safe and sound. He is Tedros, my brother".
-- Yohannes, EMERGENCY cultural mediator in Sicily
"HELMAND GLOBETROTTERS" Aziz and Nabi are two of our Afghan colleagues, who proceeded with the opening of a new First Aid Post of EMERGENCY in Shoraki. That ambulance has been going back and forth, filled with medication, to stock up Shoraki, and now serves to transport the more seriously wounded patients to our surgical centre in Lashkar-gah.
Helmand is one of the provinces in #Afghanistan with the most intense combat. If we are able to work in such a dangerous area, it is also thanks to the help, dedication and, indeed, courage, of people like Aziz, Nabu, and Saifudin, who, every day, work with us in the territory.
Malnutrition is responsible for about half of the deaths of children under five years old, worldwide. In our Pediatric Centre in Port Sudan (but not just there!), we fight malnutrition day after day by way of "health promotion", educational programmes aimed at parents and nutritional programmes.
"This photo is a snapshot of hope," our Medical Coordinator Ljubica writes. Every day, together with colleagues, she works to provide free treatment to children in the area.
The war is when you are in your family's house and, all of a sudden, a rocket falls nearby, and no one knows just who fired it, nor what their motive was. The war is when a mother stays there in the house, with two daughters who did not survive the explosion, as the rest of the family is being rushed to the hospital. The war is when a nine-year-old girl is asking questions which you do not know how to answer.
The girl's name is Madina. She is the only one in the family who has not been harmed. She travelled for two hours in our ambulance, to accompany her wounded parents, from Tagab, where they live, to our hospital in Kabul. It was she who told us their names, while watching our staff transport them on stretchers. It was she who asked us how the younger brother, father, two cousins and uncles were doing.
What explanation can be given to a nine-year-old girl, confronted with these multiple injuries, to the head, thorax, abdomen, and limbs?
-- Sara, EMERGENCY Medical Coordinator in Afghanistan
“I got to know them on the Responder, in the middle of the Mediterranean. It was the first time that I went on the boat. I remember these three girls well. They were always staying tightly together, and never left each other for the entire trip.
Some days ago, with EMERGENCY’s red book in their hands, they were taken onto the Responder, and brought to our clinic at the Villa Sikania in Agrigento, Sicily, asking to be examined. As soon as they saw me, they remembered me from the ship, happy to see a familiar face again, someone that they could trust.
During the examination, it came to light that all three had been subject to terrible brutality during the trip. They wanted to make sure that they had not acquired sexually transmitted diseases. We did one of the necessary tests, which was negative, and we are organizing the others.
In the field, we are made aware, day after day, how important it is to guarantee constant medical and psychological care to persons who are fleeing war, violence, and poverty. For this reason, besides being on the Responder, we are present in various Italian cities, with our health care facilities capable of continuing to treat those in need.”
-- Eleonora, EMERGENCY nurse
She was on a dinghy. Indeed, we went with MOAS to rescue her on the sea, to bring her to Italy and to Europe. To save her. Welcome, little one.
“She was with her mama, on one of the three boats which we rescued on Wednesday,” explains Tijana, a nurse with EMERGENCY, aboard the ship Responder. Altogether, there were more than 350 people. “She was so traumatized by the voyage that she was unable even to cry. Only when she hugged her mother again did she recover. She was freezing and starving. We had her wear a thermal blanket, and gave her something to eat. Finally, she began to laugh and play, with big smiles.”
EMERGENCY NGO & MOAS
'There were 352 people on board. Many among them women and children.
Telling you about today's rescue is very painful. In the hold of the boat we found four dead people. One of them was a child, he couldn't have been older than 13.
Mimmo and Gigi, our doctor and our nurse immediately started providing assistance to three other passengers who were in very critical conditions. They resuscitated two of them, who were in respiratory arrest due to asphyxiation.
The bodies of those who didn't make it are in our morgue and we are now heading North.'
We really wish we hadn't received such an update from the #Responder today.
(July 12, 2016)
"It took me more than one year to reach Libya." K. is from Sierra Leone and he is 20 years old. He became an orphan when he was still a child, and lived in poverty for years. That's why, when he got the chance, he decided to set off in search for a better life.
"I spent 4 months in Libya, working as a driver. One day, on the way back from work, I was stopped in the street by a gang of armed men. They beat me and stole all the money I had. At the moment, this is the greatest danger in Libya" explains K. "being beaten and robbed by armed gangs. Libya is very unstable and criminals take advantage of this and, in particular, of people like me who come from Sub-Saharan Africa."
On Monday morning the #Responder, the vessel on which our team is providing medical assistance, arrived at the commercial harbour in Augusta, Sicily. A second EMERGENCY team was at the harbour, waiting to receive the most critical patients. 387 migrants, including K., disembarked the vessel, among them there were 9 children. On the the vessel there were also 57 women, 3 of them are pregnant.
(June 15, 2016)
EMERGENCY NGO & MOAS
"At first I only saw two hands emerging from the dinghy. As soon as we got closer and started signaling that we were there to help, I saw dozens of hands raising in the air.
They were trying to get our attention, to reach for help. It was a very emotional moment. In front of me, in the middle of the sea between Italy and Libya, were hundreds of youngsters. We rescued them one by one and pulled them aboard the Responder".
--Luca, EMERGENCY's doctor on the Responder Vessel
(June 10, 2016)
POZALLO - ITALY
Since the beginning of May, with the summer approaching and the EU-Turkey deal ongoing, the number of people arriving to Italy mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Ghana, Nigeria and Pakistan has significantly increased.
Giulia, EMERGENCY mediator in Sicily, tells us about H. and R., respectively 16 and 5 years old. They survived a shipwreck occurred last 26 of May in the Strait of Sicily, where 400 people, including more than 40 children, may have lost their lives.
When they arrived in Sicily H. was suffering from hypotension. Once he was safe on board of the ship that rescued him, he had a nervous breakdown. Then there was R., who lost her mother in Libya.
They’re better now, they don’t need a doctor or medicines. What they need are just apologies. Apologies for this deaf, blind continent.
When Fatima arrived at the Paediatric Centre in Port Sudan she handed us her only child in tears and said ‘Take care of him. Please help me, I don't know where else to go’.
She had been trying to tend to her newborn by herself.
However, she realised that something was wrong. Amir, who seemed such a strong and healthy baby boy, stopped eating, slept all day and had trouble breathing. Then the first convulsions started. Fatima was alone and frantic, she had no idea what to do and she had nobody to turn to. Without family, what could she do to find help for her baby?
Which is when she came to EMERGENCY. By the time he reached us, Amir was in critical condition. We worked hard for days and days to save his life. In the meantime, we also took care of Fatima, giving her new clothes, a bed with clean sheets and warm meals.
After a few weeks, Amir was once again the strong baby Fatima knew and less than a week ago he was sent home. As Fatima walked away with her child, we saw a stronger woman and a healthy baby go on their way. ‘During the time I spent with you,’ Fatima told us before leaving, ‘I found a new family that I can count on. Knowing that you are here makes me feel safer for my future and for the future of my baby.'
-- Stefano, Paediatrician at EMERGENCY in Sudan
(May 25, 2016)
“Najib's operation went very well," Marina, our Medical Coordinator in Libya, tells us, "It was a life-saving operation for him.”
22 year old Najib’s leg had been hit by a bullet and showed widespread signs of infection. Unfortunately, the only solution was to amputate it.
"In the coming days we'll give him all the necessary medication and, if everything goes as well as we hope, he should be able to go home quite soon,” Marina explains, “Najib is young and strong, and he's recovering well."
Good luck Najib!
(May 16, 2016)
N. and H. were screaming with pain when they arrived. After more than ten days on the boat, they landed last Friday in Augusta, Sicily, along with 430 other people. Nearly all of them were from Egypt, some from sub-Saharan Africa. Worryingly, there were around 100 unaccompanied Egyptian minors amongst them.
N. is just six years old, and she has an injury to her chin. It happened four days earlier, when the high waves rocked the boat which she and her family were on, amongst a group of around 100 people that had set off from Alexandria in Egypt. She banged her face and was then crushed by the person next to her. She was hungry, but she couldn’t chew anything: her teeth are wobbly. We treated her, and reassured her until she calmed down.
H., on the other hand, was in her mother's arms. She's just eight months old. When we took off the nappy she'd been wearing for the previous 12 days, we found her covered in sores. "They'd told us the journey would be short," explained her mother, "but we spent twelve days in the open sea. The people smugglers made us change from one boat to another several times, until we were finally picked up by the Italian coast guard yesterday."
N. and H. were only the first two patients of the day.
(May 16, 2016)
As Najib entered the operating theatre, his father approached us.
'My wife and I would like to go into the ward to see Najib before the operation' he said.
22-year old Najib was brought to our hospital in Gernada, #Libya, a week ago. Five days earlier, a bullet wounded his leg. After being taken to the hospital in Bengasi, where he was given some initial treatment, he was transferred to our hospital.
We saw straight away that his condition was really serious: a vascular injury to the leg, which was also showing widespread signs of infection.
Our surgeons tried to do what they could but, unfortunately, amputation was the only possibility. We called his father and explained the seriousness of the situation, asking his go-ahead for the operation.
'His life is more important than his leg' he replied, trying to hold back the tears.
Najib's parents got here in the early morning to spend some time with their son before the operation. We helped them put on the lab coats, so they could enter the intensive care unit. Hand in hand, they went up to his bed and then hugged him, stroked his head and reassured him.
Seeing Najib's mother talk so gently to her son and cuddle him made us think how nothing, not even war, can destroy the love and affection that bind people together.
--Marina, EMERGENCY's Medical Coordinator in Libya
(May 10, 2016)
As Ibrahim turned 22, he landed at Pozzallo, southern Italy, along with 244 other people. Just before his medical examination in our Mobile Clinic, we realised it was his birthday, and we gave him a smile and wished him a ‘happy birthday’. Ibrahim was really touched. Sometimes, even the smallest gesture is enough.
"Thank you, that was the best present I could have wished for."
Ibrahim was happy because he had managed to cross the desert, pass through Libya, and make it across the sea alive. But also because he had finally found some humanity in the person in front of him.
Over the last year and a half, EMERGENCY staff have been present at landings of migrants and refugees in southern Italy, ready to provide basic care to those who arrive via the central Mediterranean route. Those we help are frequently dehydrated and undernourished, and often bear clear signs of torture and trauma, usually sustained during their journey through Libya. The people who face these journeys leave their home country, head to Libya, and cross the Strait of Sicily. They have no other option: they're fleeing from war, dictatorships, and poverty. That’s why we will be there to provide assistance for as long as we are needed.
(April 19, 2016)
In the last few days, fighting has intensified on the outskirts of Derna, Libya. Several individuals who were wounded in the fighting were immediately transferred to our hospital in Gernada, where our surgical team is now treating their injuries.
Since October 2015, EMERGENCY has been operating a Surgical Centre in Gernada, Al Bayda Province, Libya. The Centre offers free, high-quality surgical and trauma treatment for war victims. It has already treated over 700 patients and performed more than 100 surgical operations.
Located approximately 70km from Derna, and 150km from Benghazi, the Surgical Centre is intended to become a reference point not only for those living nearby, but also for patients coming from across the country.
'Despite the uncertainty of the future,' says Emanuele, EMERGENCY's Program Coordinator in Libya, 'EMERGENCY continues to treat war victims in its hospital in Gernada'.
The war in Libya, which began in 2011, severely affected the national healthcare system: due to a widespread lack of resources and staff, access to basic and specialised healthcare is difficult for large portions of the population.
In addition to the provision of surgical and medical care, the Centre aims to contribute to re-building the capacity and sustainability of the Libyan national health system by offering professional training programs on patient stabilization, treatment, and trauma management.
70 Libyan national staff are currently being trained by a team of ten international healthcare professionals. The training will cover not only the provision of high-level medical care, but also hygiene and day to day hospital management.
In our hospitals we give great importance to the training of local staff. For EMERGENCY, providing sustainable healthcare means training medical and non-medical staff who can continue to provide free, high quality healthcare after we leave.
(April 6, 2016)
“I was shocked,” said Khalid, one of our mediators in Sicily, “at just 2 years of age Aida had already spent a month in a prison in Libya, and had crossed the Strait of Sicily in a rubber boat".
In the last two days, over 1,500 people have come ashore in Pozzallo and Augusta, Sicily. Among them was a young Gambian couple who, after spending the past 6 months in Libya, boarded a rubber boat with their daughter, Aida, and headed for Italy, following the central Mediterranean route. Khalid and our other colleagues are there, providing social-medical assistance during the landings, from EMERGENCY’s two Mobile Clinics.
(March 31, 2016)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
His real name is Anatole, but he's known here as ‘La terreur des enfants’, or the children's terror. Every morning, he sits on the stool in the blood sample room of our Paediatric Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic, and calls out the names of the children indicated by his triage colleagues. It seems that children's fear of needles is universal. He soothes frightened children with a few gentle words.
The next child comes in. The trainee student sitting at Anatole's side has watched and now he knows what to do, so it's his turn to take the blood sample. Anatole nods approvingly; he enjoys his work and he's happy to teach someone else how to do it. He knows full well how important his commitment is, in a place where everything is consumed by poverty and war.
-- Sandra, EMERGENCY Staff Member
(March 29, 2016)
«Once again I'm proud of our team! We're up and running in the new area of the Ashti camp for Iraqi IDPs in Iraq, and our guard was the first IDP to sleep in this new area.
Around 100 families arrive here from the Arbat camp every day, and at last they'll have a clean, dignified tent spot. The Arbat camp was overcrowded and really muddy. It was never planned; it was just an area "occupied" by the huge numbers of refugees that headed there from Ninewa after Mosul was conquered by the Islamic State. Since 2014, tens of thousands of people have been seeking shelter from the continuous fighting in Syria and Iraq, searching for a safe place. EMERGENCY began offering free medical care straight away and started building five Health Centres in the Kurdistan area
When we were told about the intention to extend the Ashti camp, we set to work at once. The aim was to build a new clinic to guarantee good quality treatment for the 16,000 people who'd be living there.
To ensure the necessary care right from the start, we set up our mobile clinic and arranged a specific area with two tents that will act as a clinic for the next three months, until the new Clinic is ready.
The tents are fitted out with an area where patients can be examined, an area for the doctors, and a bathroom. There's also air-conditioning and a shaded outdoor area for those waiting.
I want to thank all our staff and all the people who support us: if we've managed to set up this project, the credit goes to you as well!»
-- Giacomo, EMERGENCY NGO Humanitarian Response Programme Manager in Iraq
(March 18, 2016)
«Fatooma was discharged from our “Salam” Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan a few days ago. Before leaving the hospital, she took the box of coloured pens and the sheets of paper that we'd given her, and carefully put them in her “suitcase”. The smile on her face was full of hope.
When she came to us, her heart was beating so fast that it seemed to want to leap out of her chest. It was too late to try any pharmacological treatment: she'd been suffering from a strep throat that it had been gradually damaging her heart as well, to the extent of destroying the valves. All this was caused by a rheumatic fever - an illness that strikes 1 person out of 100,000 in Belgium, and can easily be cured. But in these countries, in the grip of poverty and war, it affects up to 100 people in 100,000, especially children between the ages of 5 and 15. All this because nobody had given her antibiotics; and yet just a simple pill would have been enough to prevent all this damage.
Luckily, with a surgical operation we were able to repair her heart valve without having to replace it with a mechanical one. So Fatooma can now go back to her home in West Darfur, grow up healthy, go to school, and stay with her parents.
I can't help thinking of all those who ask me “how come there's an EMERGENCY hospital that practices heart surgery? Weren't you an organisation for war victims?”
In your opinion, being 8 years old and having to have your chest opened up in order to repair a heart valve - isn't that a war? In your opinion, not having the right to free healthcare - isn't that a result of war? In your opinion, where does this absence of rights come from, if not from the war?»
-- Daniela, EMERGENCY NGO cardiologist in Sudan
(March 10, 2016)
«Physiotherapy is fundamental to guarantee the best possible treatment to our patients».
Anil, physiotherapist in Libya, explains to us why the new physio room of our Surgical Centre for War Victims is so important: «in the area, there's no other hospital where you can make rehabilitation, once dismissed.
Our patients really trust us: some of them arrive from faraway cities, to follow their rehabilitation programme».
(February 18, 2016)
«Monday is the “big round” day here at the EMERGENCY NGO hospital in Goderich, Sierra Leone. I follow Enrico (our international orthopaedic surgeon) and Kambai (our Sierraleonese physician) in their visit to all our patients: they discharge those who have improved and can go home, they plan the surgical operations, they stabile and follow-up the post-op patients.
We start from the kids. Mammoud immediately catches my attention; I have already seen him going around the hospital in these days, and I have been wondering what had happened to him.
Mammoud is here since last September. He was playing in his backyard when unfortunately he fell directly into the fire that was set up for cooking. Half of his face is now covered by bandages, but on the other half you can see him smiling. He is curious, he feels at home in the hospital and he has already made a lot of friends. He lost one eye but he is not completely blind, our doctors were able to save his sight and heal his burns. This is an impressive result, considering that being a disabled person in Sierra Leone often means marginalization and poor livelihood.
Mammoud has still a long and happy life in front of him.»
-- Laura, EMERGENCY staff
(February 15, 2016)
LOKOMASAMA, SIERRA LEONE
While the Ebola emergency is officially over in Sierra Leone, the epidemic has severely weakened an already struggling national health system. The need for health care support is still huge. This is why a few months ago EMERGENCY opened a new First Aid Post (FAP) in Lokomasama, Sierra Leone. The hospital offers free first aid treatment for people living in the countryside, where access to healthcare is extremely difficult.
National and International staff there are working 24/7 to guarantee high-quality and free-of-charge services; while Health Promoters are visiting the surrounding villages to inform people about the new centre and our activities.
Connecting the hospital with local communities is very important: it ensures people are informed about the possibility to receive free-of-charge healthcare, a quite unusual thing in Sierra Leone. Local Health Promoters, trained by EMERGENCY, are vital to provide people with basic information about healthcare and, most of all, to invite them into the hospital in case of injuries or accident. Gaining the trust of people from rural villages is fundamental to do our job properly. Local staff plays a key role in raising awareness about our commitment.
(February 15, 2016)