Responding to this humanitarian crisis in Syria, La Chaîne de l’Espoir has been mobilized since November 2012 in Jordan to improve access to surgical health services for young vulnerable children, both refugees and Jordanian. Starting in 2014, La Chaîne de l’Espoir has been conducting cardiac surgery missions in Jordan for vulnerable children with heart diseases, mainly congenital defects. More than 75 children have been operated on since 2014. In August, a new paediatric surgery mission was held in Amman with a financial support from the European Union – Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).
Late August 2017 La Chaîne de L'Espoir and Chain of Hope UK teamed up to complete a new cardiac mission in Amman, Jordan. Chain of Hope UK bought out a team of nurses, surgeons, intensivists, anaesthetists and perfusionists. The team was diverse with intensivists from Norway, surgeons from Denmark and Uganda along with others coming from all over of the UK.
In the course of the mission, 40 patients got consultations and 9 were operated on. The children ranged between 8 months and 18 years and most of them came from the Za’atari camp on the border of Syria and Jordan. The Za’atari camp is recorded to have a population of almost 80,000, out of which 57% are under 24, 19.9% of whom are under 5 years old (source: UNHCR). Originally designed to hold only 60,000 refugees, Za’atari camp is now the fourth largest city on Jordan. Although health care is available within the camp, it is limited, mainly to primary healthcare, so La Chaîne de L'Espoir and Chain of Hope UK have completed several missions in Amman working with children from the camps. During the mission the team worked in cooperation with the staff at the Gardens hospital and performed a variety of cardiac surgeries, focusing on congenital defects such as atrioventricular septal defects. Left untreated however these septal defects may lead to pneumonia, congestive heart failure and increased blood pressure.
Noor a seven-year old girl from the Za’atari camp came in with a striking story. Born in Syria, she had to move to Jordan to live with her aunt and uncle as she was left without parents. Noor was referred to La Chaîne de L'Espoir via a doctor within the Za’atari camp. Noor came in with blue lips and fingernails and was suffering from an atrial septal defect. She was the team’s first case and was a great success; by the next day she had walked herself out of the ICU. Despite her tough start in life, Noor is in first grade and when she’s not busy colouring on the walls she hopes to become a teacher. Within the Za’atari camp there are 3 schools although attendance rates are startlingly low. Three days after the operation, Noor was leaving with her aunt, uncle and cousins, looking forward to returning to school and her friends.
Some of the children operated on were born within the Za’atari camp itself like 8 month old Eleas and his 19 year old mother. Eleas' defect was discovered at birth by the paediatric unit in Jordan and he was referred to La Chaîne de L'Espoir by them. Despite complications after surgery due to a chest infection, Eleas will now lead a normal life, free of cardiac problems.
Led by the two surgeons Professor Vibeke Hjordtal from Denmark and Dr Michael Oketcho from Uganda, the team not only worked to perform the nine cases to the highest standard but also worked with the doctors in the Gardens hospital to provide further knowledge. The nurses were highly involved in guiding and working with local staff. Despite initial differences, specifically around women in the work place, by the end of the week the nurses were working well with the local staff to provide care.
The whole mission was funded by the European Union and has provided 9 children with an amazing increased in quality of life. There are more missions planned to Jordan, orthopaedic and cardiac, the soonest being in October.
For this programme, we have received ECHO funding from the European Union to support our operations.