Jordan: Increasing Numbers of Wounded Syrians Fleeing Barrel Bombs

Ton Koene

Over the past two weeks, more than 65 war-wounded Syrian patients—most injured by barrel bombs—arrived at the emergency room of Al-Ramtha hospital in northern Jordan, marking a significant spike in the number of patients treated there by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

In late June, 34 wounded Syrian patients arrived in just three days. Some were stabilized by MSF medical teams and referred to other hospitals. The rest continue to receive surgical and rehabilitative treatment at Al-Ramtha hospital, which sits about three miles from the Syrian border, and where MSF works in close collaboration with the Jordanian Ministry of Health to provide quality medical care to Syrian patients.   

"More than 70 percent of the wounded we receive suffer from blast injuries, and their multiple wounds tell their stories," said Renate Sinke, project coordinator of MSF’s emergency surgical program in Ramtha.

MSF and many other organizations have called repeatedly for an end to the bombing of populated areas inside Syria. These calls have had no impact. Patients of all ages continue to arrive at Al-Ramtha hospital in large numbers with injuries that they say were caused by barrel bombs dropped by helicopters on residential areas and health structures in southern Syria.

Read More: 130 Wounded by Missile Strikes in Idlib Governorate

There have been reports of health facilities coming under attack in Syria’s Dara'a Governorate in the past two weeks, leading more Syrian patients to risk the dangerous trip across the Jordanian border, seeking medical care that has become extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access in their home country. Many hospitals inside Syria now lack the personnel, medical expertise, or equipment to deal with highly complex injuries.

"A significant proportion of the patients we receive have suffered head injuries and other multiple injuries that cannot be treated inside southern Syria, as CT-scans and other treatment options are limited," said Dr. Muhammad Shoaib, MSF medical coordinator in Jordan.

One recent patient at Al-Ramtha Hospital was Majed, a 27-day-old baby with a head injury caused by shrapnel from a barrel bomb.

Majed's father, Murad, gave the following account:

"At 9:00 a.m., a barrel bomb hit our house in Tafas. I was not around at that time. I have to work to feed and take care of my family. When I heard the news, I dropped what I was doing and I ran to the house as fast as I could.

"I found my wife and mother both injured, but their injuries did not look too severe. Then I saw my little boy. He was quiet and his head seemed to be injured. I took him to the field hospital in Tafas. They tried to help him but couldn't, since the appropriate equipment is not available in Syria. He needed to go to Jordan for treatment.

"It took us one-and-a-half hours from the time of injury until we arrived at the border, and some more before arriving in Ramtha. Now, all I want is for my baby to be better and go back to Syria."

Since the Syrian conflict began, more than four million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries, including Jordan. MSF has been present in Jordan since August 2006, running a reconstructive surgery program in Amman. Since 2013, MSF has been working to support refugees and patients through the Al-Ramtha emergency trauma surgical program, as well as a mother and child hospital and two noncommunicable disease projects in Irbid to support Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians in host communities.

MSF staff working in Ramtha hospital (jordan, near the syrian border) where war wounded patients from Syria are being treated. MSF medical staff is operating a patient in the operation theater (OT).
Ton Koene