x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Faces of the Iraq war

Events of the past decade in Iraq have changed its people forever, none more so than the Iraqis portrayed here. The National's Lee Hoagland travelled to a Médecins Sans Frontières' Amman clinic, where doctors are attempting to heal some of their injuries.

Sameer Kamal Huzur, 7, was injured in her home after it caught on fire while she was playing.
Sameer Kamal Huzur, 7, was injured in her home after it caught on fire while she was playing.

When US-led military forces invaded Iraq ten years ago this week, few imagined that the ensuing fighting would last so long and leave so many victims. More than 173,000 Iraqis were killed in war-related incidents beween March 20, 2003, and the end of 2012, the United Nations says. Some 2.5 million people - or 12 per cent of Iraq's population - are physically disabled due to injuries suffered during the war.

Among the many groups of professionals who fled Iraq's turmoil were doctors. The ratio of physicians to patients today is one per 1,428 Iraqis. That has left Iraqis with horrific wounds suffered from improvised explosive devices, car bombs and shrapnel without adequate medical treatment.

To meet some the need, the relief agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in 2006 set up a centre for reconstructive surgery at the former Qasr Jeddah Hotel in Amman. The building accommodates 273 live-in patients and is staffed by paid doctors from Jordan, Iraq and Syria. It is supported entirely by private donations.

Candidates for treatment at the centre are screened by one of nine MSF liaison officers stationed throughout Iraq. Most patients admitted to the centre require at least two operations and at least four months of convalescence and continued treatment. Last year, 15 per cent of the centre's patients were children, who are accompanied throughout their stay at the centre by at least one family member.

Events of the past decade in Iraq have changed its people forever, none more so than the Iraqis portrayed here. With the help of skilled and dedicated doctors, they struggle with both the physical and mental scars inflicted by a decade of nightmares. They endeavour each day to reclaim parts of their lives the war took away, knowing some can never be brought back.