WHO support saves lives of people injured in the frontlines of Mosul

23 April 2017 – With almost half of all major hospitals in Ninewa Governorate, Iraq, being non-functional, the medical capacity of secondary and tertiary hospitals to treat severely wounded people from Mosul has significantly reduced. In response, WHO and Iraqi health authorities have established 5 trauma stabilization points on the frontlines of east and west Mosul, established 3 field hospitals in Bartalla managed by Samaritan’s Purse and in Athba and Hamam al-Alil managed by Aspen Medical, and prepositioned 46 ambulances to strengthen referral services. Athba and Hamam al-Alil field hospitals have a maternity wing established by UNFPA. WHO and the Erbil Directorate of Health have strengthened surgical capability and post-operative care services in the Emergency Hospital in Erbil, where severe cases are being referred for specialized care. WHO will establish a fourth field hospital in a location to be determined by the health authorities.

As of 20 April, more than 8000 trauma cases from east and west Mosul, 75% of them civilians, have been treated in 5 hospitals, including Athba and Bartalla Field Hospitals, and Shikhan Hospital in Ninewa, and the Emergency and West Emergency hospitals in Erbil. Almost two thirds of all patients are children under the age of 15 and women, the majority requiring major surgery. Looking beyond the numbers are heart wrenching stories of survival by patients from west and east Mosul.

19 year old Amina* and baby Aymaan*

19 year old pregnant Amina* had been trapped in the basement of her family home in west Mosul city for 20 days due to fighting in her neighbourhood. On the day she decided to flee to safety, luck was not on her side. As she ran out of her home, she was shot, the bullet entering through the right side of her abdomen, penetrating her uterus and exiting from the left side.

Amina, who was in her last trimester of pregnancy, sustained serious injuries. As she was transported to Athba Field Hospital in a WHO-donated ambulance, she was bleeding profusely but conscious, crying and fearful of losing her life and her unborn baby. The medical team of highly skilled surgeons, paramedics and nurses in the Field Hospital quickly conducted an ultrasound to establish the level of injuries that she had sustained. Miraculously, doctors could hear the baby’s heartbeat - an indication that he was still alive.

Racing against time to save both mother and baby, the medical team rushed her to the operating theatre for emergency surgery. Six minutes later, baby Ayman* was born after a successful emergency caesarean section. Baby Ayman had sustained minor injuries to his elbow, which was hit by the bullet that went through Amina’s abdomen. Doctors say that his elbow prevented the bullet from bursting the amniotic fluids in the uterus, possibly saving his life.

Mohamed* 9 years

Nine-year-old Mohamed* was with his family at a water point near his home in Mosul when they were shot by a sniper. A bullet hit Mohamed’s left cheek and penetrated his right cheek, seriously wounding him. Unfortunately, his father and uncle both died on the spot. Mohamed was rushed to a nearby stabilization point supported by WHO, located a few kilometers from the frontlines and later transferred to Athba hospital. He was treated and discharged a few days later.

Shamim* 8 years

Eight-year-old Shamim* arrived at Athba Field Hospital one late afternoon with pieces of shrapnel lodged in her brain, unconscious and on the verge of death. When doctors first saw her, they had little hope that she would survive. After other patients with a higher chance of survival had been treated, Shamim was re-examined by the medical team. After a brief evaluation, she was placed into an artificial coma to allow her brain recover from the trauma caused by 2 large pieces of shrapnel.

Two days later, while in the intensive care unit, the team noticed Shamim making some movements; this was great news to the team that expected little progress. One week later, Shamin started talking and making limited movements. Although diagnosed with cerebral damage as a result of her injury, Shamim was out of danger and made very good progress towards recovery. She was transferred to Emergency Hospital in Erbil for additional specialized medical treatment, including grafting for a large burn she sustained in her thigh.

21-year old Basam

Lying in the corridors of Bartalla field hospital were many wounded young men and women, the majority suffering from gunshot wounds and injuries caused by shrapnel and mortar shelling. Basam, 21, is one of the young men suffering from life-threatening injuries following a mortar attack in east Mosul that left both of his legs shattered. He was picked up by an ambulance and rushed to Hamdaniya trauma stabilization point, and then to Bartalla field hospital where he underwent surgery. A final year student in the University of Mosul, Basam was forced to give up his studies when the crisis in Mosul intensified, but hopes to one day complete his degree and pursue his dream of becoming an English teacher.

* Not real names. Names have been altered for purposes of publication.