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One year after Syria earthquake, healing continues

Emergency Rehabilitation

Survivors of the powerful earthquakes that hit Syria in February 2023 are still receiving rehabilitation and psychological support from Humanity & Inclusion's partners.

Noor, aged 3, was seriously injured during the earthquake of 6 February 2023. After seven months in hospital, she continues to receive regular care from the teams at Aqrabat Hospital, HI's partner

Noor, aged 3, was seriously injured during the earthquake on Feb. 6, 2023. After seven months in the hospital, she continues to receive regular care from the teams at Aqrabat Hospital, HI's partner in northwest Syria. Pictured here with her physical therapist. | © HI

Date published: 01/30/24

"My greatest pride is to see our patients, like Rema, able to walk again, thanks to the prostheses we have provided, and to be happy again."

These are the first words of Salahedin, Director of the Aqrabat Hospital - HI's partner in northwest Syria, when asked what he is most proud of, one year after the terrible earthquake that struck the region and claimed thousands of lives.

Rema continues to visit the hospital's rehabilitation center regularly, in particular for adjustments to her prosthesis. Today, Rema says she is feeling much better:

"I'd really given up hope of ever walking again, but thanks to this prosthesis I've been able to continue my studies, I feel at ease wherever I go and I feel almost as good as I did before."

A long path to recovery

The teams at Aqrabat Hospital were fully mobilized from the very first hours following the disaster and are as determined as ever to support their patients, like Rema, in their long recovery.

The majority of injured survivors seen by HI’s partner at Aqrabat Hospital suffer orthopedic injuries that require prolonged rehabilitation to regain their mobility, strength and functionality.

"Ongoing rehabilitation sessions are essential to ensure optimum recovery and prevent long-term disability," explains Salahedin.

For people with severe orthopedic injuries, the ability to move around independently can be compromised. The Aqrabat Hospital helps patients to adapt to their prostheses, wheelchairs, crutches and any other aids that may meet their mobility needs. These first responders also offer comprehensive pain management protocols, including medication, physical therapy and alternative treatments to help patients better manage the chronic pain that can result from their injuries.

Beyond the physical injuries, the trauma of the earthquake can have lasting psychological effects, such as post-traumatic stress and anxiety.

"The main challenge after an earthquake is to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of the survivors. Our orthopedic hospital is committed to providing holistic care to meet these challenges effectively over the long term," he assures us.

In the treatment room of the Aqrabat Hospital rehabilitation center, 3-year-old Noor gives a few shy smiles and blows up balloons. It was a warm moment, with "attentive" staff, says her father, who was also present. Noor was just two and a half years old when the violent tremors caused her house to collapse. She lay under the rubble for three days before being found by the emergency services.

"I lost my whole family in the earthquake. Noor is the only child I have left. Sometimes she asks me where her brother is, but I think she was little and doesn't remember everything."

Healing and resilience

Noor's right leg was amputated below the knee following the earthquake. Her left leg has undergone multiple operations. After seven months in the hospital, she is still being closely monitored by HI's partners.

"Noor is still growing, so we have to readjust her prosthesis regularly. As for her other leg, it has been very weakened since the earthquake because of the many operations she has undergone. We're helping her with her rehabilitation and checking her prosthetic leg regularly," explains her physical therapist.

Alongside rehabilitation, it is important to provide psychological support for the little girl. Psychological support plays an essential role in overcoming complex emotional and mental difficulties, promoting healing, resilience and recovery.

As with many of the children injured in the earthquake, Aqrabat Hospital is organizing dedicated recreational activities.

"My daughter was very nervous at first, but now she's better. She's started playing again, which is what she does most during the day," says Noor's father.

Constant threat of war

But for Salahedin, these moments of relaxation and joy should not overshadow the "profoundly difficult" situation, he says, of all these patients, in a region that has endured war for more than ten years.

"Not only are they grappling with the mental trauma caused by the earthquake, but they are also carrying the weight of ongoing distress linked to the war. Their daily lives are marked by an omnipresent sense of fear, accentuated by the constant threat of airstrikes. What's more, the unpredictable nature of the conflict forces many of them to move frequently, in search of safer areas when the intensity of the war intensifies in their neighborhood. This constant upheaval exacerbates their already fragile emotional and physical state, making their road to recovery even more complex and demanding," he concludes.


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