The Antechamber of Life

Collection with 13 media items created by Transterra Editor

22 Oct 2013 15:00

Arsal, a Lebanese border city with Syria, is a haven for the more than 12,000 Syrians who fled the fighting of the region of Qalamoun recently. Inside a building under construction in the small city, which today hosts more Syrians than Lebanese, the Union of Syrian Organizations of Medical Aid (UOSSM) organizes a formation on war medicine for 32 Syrian doctors and nurses every month.

In October, most of the trainees were originated from Qusayr, Syria, where they had to treat patients in clandestine clinics, hidden from the eyes of the Syrian authorities. Some were imprisoned and others tortured because they were treating civilians in secret. When the city was taken by the Syrian regime in summer 2013, they had to flee to Arsal, where they built a hospital inside of a mosque. There, they began to cure the injured from Qusayr, before being overwhelmed by the injured from the region of Qalamoun, the new epicentre of the Syrian civil war.

Between the 28th of November and the 3rd of December, half of the doctors and nurses who attended the formation were coming from Qalamoun. Some had lost their parents, other their children. But all were determined to learn the vital techniques to cure in the conditions of violence and shortage. Once trained and back in Syria, they will reproduce what they learned and train the rare doctors and nurses who still treat civilians among the ruins of Syria.

In the midst of a war where humanitarian right is seldom respected and where doctors are considered as targets by the Syrian regime, Raphaƫl Pitti, a former French war doctor and founder of the UOSSM, decided to organize formations of war medicine in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, to teach to local doctors how to save lives in conditions of war. Today, 300 doctors and 350 nurses have been trained by the UOSSM. In the rebel areas of Syria, where international NGOs have no access, they remain the only people who can still save lives... at the risk of their own.

Photo Photo Collec... Photo Essay Collection Arsal Lebanon Medical War ... Syria Civil War Nurses Doctors Syrian Docto...

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (1 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

There are 40,000 Lebanese residents and 35,000 Syrian refugees in Arsal. The area, in the middle of the pro-Hezbollah region of the Bekaa is sympathetic to the Syrian rebels . As a result, Arsal suffers from isolation. The UOSSM trainers express that it is very difficult to transfer medical materials to Arsal and to transfer a patient from Arsal to another region of Lebanon.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (2 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

Two Syrian doctors who are participating in the training. The oath of the UOSSM states "I swear to God that I will fulfil, according to my strength and capacity, the following commitments: I will give the necessary treatment to my friend as to my enemy, by preserving him from death and disease, from pain and anxiety. I will preserve the secrets and intimacy of each one, while ensuring to stay fair and honest. I will always try to develop my science and to use it wisely. I will be loyal to my profession and will respect my colleagues, and God is testimony of the present oath."

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (3 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

For five days, doctors train on how to treat a patient suffering from burns, how to save someone from under the rubbles after a bomb or shelling, and how to recognize the symptoms of a chemical attack among other techniques. Here, one of the doctors is learning how to give oxygen to a patient whose lips were burnt after an explosion.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (4 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

Dr. Hassan was an anesthetist in Qusayr. When the confrontation between the rebels and the regime, assisted by Hezbollah, took place and became too violent, he had to walk 40 km to Arsal. "I saw my best friend die in front of my eyes during our escape. Here, I can only pay my 200 dollars rent." My family remained in Syria. "There is no way I will quit smoking", he jokes, after being lectured by the others for smoking inside.

Behind him, Dr. Quassim, who is the founder of the hospital, in Arsal.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (5 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

During the five days of training, the Syrian doctors experienced their training model die several times. Unable to give him oxygen or to detect a diagnosis, they felt powerless in front of the poor mannequin. It is uncertain how many times they had the same feeling during the battle of Qusayr, unable to save a wounded person because there were too many to attend to, or because of the lack of material.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (6 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

In Syria, most of the experienced doctors have fled to make use of their skills elsewhere from the very beginning of the conflict, leading to the general practitioners and young nurses being responsible for the health of millions. The doctors and nurses who remained in Qusayr during the battle of June 2013 had to flee to Arsal after surviving terrible events. Here, they opened a hospital to treat Syrian refugees who crossed the Syrian/Lebanese border. During the training sessions, they practice war medicine techniques on a model.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (7 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

After the workshops, the doctors organized a debriefing, where they spoke about what they have been through in Qusayr. On the right, Bassem has witnessed his friends and cousins die because of the bombs. Mohammad, a young nurse, lost 50 kg in the army, before escaping to Arsal. All of them remained in Qusayr as long as they could to try and save some lives.

*The names have been modified

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (8 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

From the 17th till the 22th of October, 16 doctors and 16 nurses are learning about war medicine in Arsal, a Lebanese city bordering Syria. The training is organized by the Union of Syrian Organizations of Medical Aid (UOSSM), created in France and present in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Here, one of the trainers prepares a workshop, in the last floor of an unfinished building, used as a training center.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (9 ...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

An old Syrian suffering from LUNG diseaseis now bedridden in Arsal's hospital. He lives in the Syrian camp of the city, among thousands of refugees. A cold wind sweeps the Bekaa valley and announces a hard winter for the Syrian families living in tents in the refugee camps of Lebanon.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (10...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

According to Dr.Amer Kabakibo, who is one of the trainers at UOSSM, war medicine has nothing in common with general medicine. In the trainings the participants learn the four steps of war medicine: 1) Checking the vital functions 2) How to position the patient and to procure him oxygen 3) Make a complete diagnosis 4) Treat after diagnosis. One of the features of the UOSSM's training is the oath put up on the walls. "I shall give the necessary treatment to my friend as to my enemy, preserving him from death and disease, from pain and anxiety". The text, a humanist reminder in an ocean of hatred.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (11...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

Dr. Amer Kabakibo, left, explains that UOSSM already organised six war medicine trainings inside Syria and Turkey. This training is the second to take place in Lebanon. 300 trained doctors are now able to use war medicine techniques in the Syrian conflict. Last year, the retired French war doctor Raphael Pitti decided to created the UOSSM. Considering the situations the Syrian doctors were dealing with to save people's lives in the midst of the Syrian war, he decided to give them the tools to work with to counter their situation of minimum availability of material and workforce. After the training, they will return to their job in Arsal's hospital. But some of them say they could go back to Syria to exercise the techniques that they have learned during the training.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (12...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

Commenting on the oath of UOSSM Dr.Kabakibo says "When you see your sister raped, your best friend die in front of you or your neighbourhood destroyed, it is hard to bear this oath in mind. That's why it's crucial to insist on its values every day." Here, the doctors learn how to take an injured person out of a car without worsening his state.

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In Arsal, the antechamber of life (14...
Arsal, Lebanon
By Emmanuel Haddad
21 Oct 2013

For two years, the doctors from Qusayr were forced to work in secret. Dr. Hassan explains that their clandestine hospital in Qusayr was discovered five times, and bombed by the regime. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Syrian regime commited war crimes during the battle of Qusayr, which ended in June 2013, and didn't allow doctors to cure civilians and NGOs to help the population during the confrontation.