Syrian refugees in Jordan: huge strain on medical services

A Syrian refugee receives medical care from Doctor Joseph Shnoudi at a Caritas  Community Centre in Amman, Jordan. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

A Syrian refugee receives medical care from Doctor Joseph Shnoudi at a Caritas Community Centre in Amman, Jordan. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

With his final Syria Crisis blog, Caritas Scotland-SCIAF’s Media Officer Val Morgan tells the story of the Caritas doctors dealing with the physical impact of the war

It was heartening to hear that the first thing he became aware of after his home was hit by a bomb was his daughter crying – she was alive.

Initially Nidal had been knocked unconscious whilst he took shelter with his family and neighbours from the bombardment taking place in his suburb of Damascus. Three died in the attack. Nidal was taken to a hospital with severe leg injuries. After three days the hospital came under attack and was eventually destroyed – thankfully Nidal and his family had narrowly escaped again.

I met Nidal in a hospital in Amman, Jordan, where Caritas runs a range of medical services in association with the Italian Hospital. Here, Caritas Jordan provides primary care including an initial medical assessment, treatment and medicine. Secondary healthcare is also provided including referrals to other services and supporting in-patients, for instance, by paying the costs of their medical care.

Cartas Jordan uses the Italian Hospital and four others across the country, together with five migration centres, to provide direct humanitarian aid such as food, cloths, blankets, stoves and fuel. But the increasing demand being placed on Jordan’s healthcare system by the influx of refugees is placing huge strain on services.

Suhad Zarafili of Caritas Jordan told me, “The healthcare system is now very over-crowded. We did not expect to have the high number of Syrian refugees that we have. When we have seen such high demand we have had to establish a new medical centre here in Amman.”

Caritas Jordan has seen a six-fold increase in Syrians needing medical attention in recent months. Dr Khalid Shammas, the Director of the Italian Hospital told me:

“We are used to working with refugees since the Iraq conflict, but the Syrian situation is much worse. I believe the Syrian war will continue to run for several years and the impact on Jordan with last for 20years. The Syrian refugees have lost everything and have nothing to go back to.

“There are more people being referred to us all the time. They have a greater need for medical help, and there’s also more wounded. To deal with the great number of people with diseases related to poverty and war is extremely challenging. We are not used to dealing with this amount of people.

“We also have to deal with people affected by war trauma, those who have lost relatives, and everything they know. We need to treat everything, from the psychological to the physical.”

Thanks to Caritas Jordan and its partners, many thousands of Syrian refugees have received urgent medical care and humanitarian aid at this difficult time.

The demands on the county’s health system and wider society continue to mount, but it would be much worse without the love, care and practical support being provided by the Caritas family.

Caritas Internationalis

President: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
Secretary General: Michel Roy

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