TRIPOLI – When 10-year-old Khaled awoke at Tripoli Public Hospital over the weekend, he had been unconscious for two days and he was missing a leg. A missile hit his home near Homs 17 days go, but it took him two weeks to make it to a hospital. A siege by the Syrian Army around Khaled’s village of Qusayr, just 12 kilometers from the Lebanese-Syrian border, prevented his transfer to a hospital. Fifteen days after the missile fell, the Free Syrian Army took him and his father through a smuggling route to the border near Masharih al-Qaa in the northern Bekaa Valley.
From there, the Lebanese Red Cross took them to Tripoli Public Hospital, where Khaled was having seizures upon arrival. His right leg was so infected that it had to be amputated.
According to Ahmad Moussa, a media official in a committee that coordinates the affairs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, in addition to their physical pain those like Khaled who are injured in Syria also fear arrest or murder at the hands of the Syrian army or its supporters in Lebanon. The U.N. estimates that over 5,000 people have died in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on anti-regime protesters, in an uprising that is now in its 11th month.
This apprehension is clear in the Tripoli Public Hospital, where the wounded refuse to disclose their real names or be photographed: Khaled is not the wounded boy’s real name.
Moussa said there are several cases of groups obstructing injured Syrians from reaching hospitals in Lebanon. Some ambulances have been attacked, and the Red Cross was prevented from moving one person to a hospital after he arrived at the border. His dead body was found two days later at a hospital in the Bekaa Valley.
Khaled’s neighbor at the hospital, Sabah, said he was shot in the right leg by the Syrian army at a checkpoint east of Homs, as he was bringing medicine into the city’s Ban Amro neighborhood.
Sabah said his motorcycle crashed after the shooting, and he waited for a passing car to take him to a hospital. With the help of the Free Syrian Army, he too was smuggled into Lebanon, and brought to Tripoli by the Red Cross.
In a nearby room, Abu Salim is barely able to speak. In halting words, he explained how a missile fell near his house, so he went with his brother and a neighbor to help. Then another missile fell, killing Abu Salim’s brother and neighbor, and leaving Abu Salim seriously injured.
He was moved to a house in Bab Amro, where many homes have been transformed into makeshift hospitals. Three days later, half conscious, he was brought into Lebanon.
The person on the committee tasked with dealing with the wounded, who goes by Abu Omar Shami, reported that Lebanon takes in one to two injured Syrians daily, with more on Fridays because of the weekly protests and clashes.
The makeshift hospitals remain vulnerable to attack by Syrian forces, and the wounded can’t be taken to most public hospitals in Syria, because there they risk arrest or death. Thus many are moved to Lebanon, he added.
Since the uprising, Shami said Lebanon has received some 100 wounded people, who, like Khaled, Sabah, and Abu Salim, are brought here via smuggler’s routes by members of opposition groups and the Free Syrian Army. At the border, the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups take them to hospitals in Lebanon.
According to Shami, the delay in hospital arrival complicates treatment and healing. He cited Khaled as an example, whose leg wound was infected after it went for more than two weeks without treatment.
Shami called on the Higher Relief Council in Lebanon, which covers the expense of treatment for Syrian refugees while they are in hospitals, to also help the injured with the problems that commence after their release, including paying for medication and physical therapy.
A Future bloc MP, Mouin Merhebi, who has been working on the issue of Syrian refugees, confirmed that the HRC and other donors are treating the wounded in hospitals, mainly in north Lebanon. After their hospital stay, they are moved to three recovery centers.
He said these refugees are then transferred to some 150 villages and cities across north Lebanon. He added that three schools in the border town of Wadi Khaled house 250 refugees each, although they are equipped to house many more.
Some politicians, including Merhebi, have called for the establishment of a refugee camp for Syrians fleeing the regime. Merhebi believes this would facilitate easier access to social and medical services for the refugees. But the issue has proved controversial and no official camp has been set up.
Some 5,000 Syrians are estimated to have sought refuge in Lebanon since the anti-government protests erupted in mid-March.
Source: The Daily Star