In January 2017 we were back in Erbil, in the same hospital we built in 1998 to treat victims of landmines and handed over to the local authorities in 2005. The Kurdish authorities asked us to run the old hospital once more, so that we could help the wounded fleeing Mosul.
The hospitals had become inaccessible or stopped running. Many died from lack of medical care or from long transfer times. A third of the population, around 700,000 people, had no choice and were forced to flee.
In July, Mosul was liberated. Many people returned to the city and now Mosul is coming back to life, little by little, as bazaars reopen and houses are inhabited once again. On 31 August, we officially left the Emergency Hospital in the hands of the Department of Health. The agreements had called for us to stay until June 2017, at which point we decided to stay for another two months.
Although this project is finished, we know that war does not end with the last battle. People still need care, medical help and prosthetic limbs. The wounds and indelible marks that war leaves every time it strikes still need to heal.
‘We often wondered where the patients we’d treated in our Surgical Centre in Erbil were, or what had become of the amputees we’d discharged,’ explains Michela, one of our medical coordinators in Iraq. ‘A few months ago, we got in contact with them in order to transfer them to our Rehabilitation Centre in Sulaymaniyah, where we gave them the prosthetic limbs they need to live independently. But many other people need help besides our patients. In the coming weeks, we will be working with the Rehabilitation Centre in Mosul, which has been partly destroyed by bombing, to provide assistance to amputees, and prosthetic limbs to anyone we can.’