The inconsolable grief of Syrian refugees

The Independent reports: A doctor has revealed the devastating impact the bombing of Aleppo is having on traumatised refugees, with relatives of those killed falling ill and trying to harm themselves in a concerning pattern forming at a camp in Greece.

An Irish medic working in Idomeni, Dr Connor Kenny, described the moment one distraught man was brought to a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic after trying to suffocate himself.

“Before I could even see him, I could hear his screams through the fabric of the field clinic tent, getting closer every second,” he said.

“Carried into the tent in a dark thermal blanket by four young men, he was in tears, screaming and writhing in agony.

“We placed him immediately on our assessment bench. It was clear that this was an emergency. Each of his friends took hold of one limb to control the forcible kicking and lashing out, and to prevent him from hitting objects in the clinical area and causing significant harm to himself.”

Dr Kenny said the refugee, a 22-year-old man called Hamza, only became more agitated as medics tried to treat him.

“Seeing his extreme distress, my initial thought was that it was a surgical problem – possibly a kidney stone or a perforation in the gut,” he added.

“But during my assessment of his airway, it became obvious he was forcibly trying to swallow his tongue, actively holding his breath at the same time. As a result his oxygen levels were falling.”

With the help of translator, friends explained that Hamza had just been told his sister had been killed in an air strike in Aleppo.

“He was so stricken with grief that he was now trying to seriously harm himself,” Dr Kenny said.

“When I first arrived in Idomeni, this might have shocked me, or at least made me feel slightly surprised. But now it doesn’t.”

The doctor said he had seen several refugees become seriously ill after hearing news of their loved one’s deaths, including a 68-year-old woman also from Aleppo who has been carried to the MSF clinic several times after fainting, following the loss of a relative in bombardment of the city.

No “medical reason” for the responses has been found, but a concerning pattern is forming, affecting refugees of all ages who have managed to reach the camp after making the treacherous boat crossing from Turkey to Greece. [Continue reading…]

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