In Emirati hospitals, the double punishment of survivors of the earthquake in Syria

In a hospital in the United Arab Emirates, Sham al-Sheikh Mohammed is recovering from the injuries that almost cost her her life. But the nine-year-old Syrian survivor of the devastating February 6 earthquake does not know that she will never see her mother again.

Cham spent more than forty hours under the rubble before being pulled out of the ruins. She does not know, however, that her mother and sister did not survive the collapse of their building in northwest Syria.
“I tell her that her mother is in intensive care and that her condition is serious,” says her father, Mohammed, whose two children, Cham and Omar, 15, were evacuated to Turkey and then Abu Dhabi for treatment.

The video of Cham’s rescue had moved his country, already ravaged by war and hard hit by the earthquake that has killed more than 50,000 people in Syria and neighboring Turkey.
It took rescue workers six hours to pull him from the ruins of his home in the Syrian rebel-held province of Idleb.
In the video posted by the rescuers, they can be heard joking with the girl to give her courage, humming together a song dedicated to the Syrian capital, Damascus (Cham in Arabic), after which she is named.

Cham and her brother are among the twelve Syrian victims taken care of by the United Arab Emirates.
Most of them suffer from traumatic rhabdomyolysis, or “buried man syndrome”. Potentially fatal, this syndrome can lead to the amputation of a limb, damage the kidneys or cause cardiac complications.
Doctors at Burjeel Medical City Hospital say they have “controlled” the infection in Cham’s lower limbs, but did not say whether they had to amputate.
“Cham’s condition is stable,” his father said, without going into detail.


– “Everyone is alive” –

In a nearby hospital, Israa al-Abdallah is also receiving treatment and is unaware of the fate of her relatives.
Like Cham, the 17-year-old from Jableh, a Syrian government stronghold, was rescued after hours under the rubble.

She suffered injuries to her skull, pelvis and shoulder, as well as eye damage, said her brother Mohammed, a Syrian army soldier who was in Damascus on the day of the earthquake.
Israa does not know that her parents, four of her siblings, and her brother’s wife and daughter died in the earthquake.
Her 12-year-old sister and nephew are the only survivors in the family.
“We told him everyone was alive,” Mohammed mutters, closing his bedroom door to keep him from hearing.


– “Empty stomach” –

Connected to monitors and an intravenous drip, Israa is breathing heavily but struggling to speak. Nerve damage affects her vision.
Doctors at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City Hospital told Mohammed that his sister will probably regain all her abilities.

In the meantime, he does not have the courage to tell her the truth about the fate of their loved ones.
“I buried my family members one after another,” he sighs. “I can’t tell (Israa) anything until God heals her and she recovers.”
In a nearby room, Ali Youssef Remmo, from the Syrian regime stronghold of Latakia province, also suffers from injuries to his lower limbs.
This father of three has regained some mobility in his legs and thinks he will walk again.
But he mourns the loss of his youngest son and his wife, two months pregnant when their building collapsed.
He tells of the sadness he feels at mealtime: “My son died on an empty stomach,” he says.

Agence France-Presse


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