Egypt | News | WHO support gives new life to Syrian refugees in Egypt requiring emergency medical care

WHO support gives new life to Syrian refugees in Egypt requiring emergency medical care

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WHOEGY_obeyi7 May 2017 – “I left Syria to keep my family safe. In my home in Rural Damascus, I couldn’t go to work and my children couldn’t go to school for fear of the bombs,” said Mohammed, sitting in the Syrian Cultural Centre in Cairo, Egypt, with his 4-year-old son, Obai, on his lap. And then, Mohammed’s face changed “I could not believe that after all we went through to escape the violence, my youngest boy, Obai, might lose his life.”

Last October, Obai was playing with his older sister, Batoul, on the third floor of their home outside of Cairo. He was thirsty and asked her for a glass of water. When she came back, he wasn’t in the room, nor was the blanket that had been hanging on the window railing. Obai had fallen from the third floor onto the street below. A bread seller, who happened to be passing by, saw him fall. He picked him up and began yelling for help. Others went to find Obai’s father, Mohammed, who was at work a few streets away. Obai was semi-conscious and bleeding from the nose. Mohammed, taking Obai in his arms, frantically looked for transportation to the hospital. He stopped a nearby street car and screamed at the driver to take them to the nearest hospital. When the driver saw Obai he was so scared that he vomited, then he lost his way and it seemed to take forever to get to the hospital.  

Mohammed continued his story: “The doctor in the emergency room told me that they could not admit Obai because the hospital was not equipped to handle trauma cases, moreover, as in many private hospitals, before they could admit my son to the intensive care unit, they ask for a down payment of 5000 Egyptian Pounds (US$ 300).” This is a fortune for Mohammed who had lost everything when he and his family fled Syria. He was told his son would die. Mohamed begged for help to keep him alive until he could find an ambulance to go to another hospital.

An ambulance was found, but by then Obai was unconscious, and had laboured breathing. When Mohammed’s sister called to get an update, she told him about Nazeer, a Syrian refugee focal person who could facilitate the access of Syrian refugees in Egypt to secondary health care services covered or supported by WHO, who Mohammed could contact for help. Little did Mohammed know that Nazeer was already on his way to the hospital, having heard of Obai’s accident through social media. The paramedics transported him to Sheikh Zayed Specialized Hospital, where X-rays and MRI laboratory results showed a brain haemorrhage, concussion and many internal injuries.

Obai was in the hospital for 47 days, including 28 days he was in a coma and stayed at the intensive care unit. At the time, Obai was the only Syrian refugee at the hospital, and so was referred to as the ‘Syrian case’ – no one called him by his name. By the time Obai was discharged from the hospital, a funding agreement between WHO and Government of Kuwait was in place, and all costs for his care were covered by WHO according to an agreement with Specialized Medical Centres at the Egyptian Ministry of Health to cover the costs of medical treatment for cases like Obai. 

At the end, Mohamed said: “I imagine that there are Syrian refugees who are in a situation worse than mine, but I have a great hope … I hope that every person in need receives the support they need.”

From the start of the crisis to date, through funding from the Government of Kuwait, WHO has covered the cost of life-saving emergency care for thousands of Syrian patients in 10 specialized hospitals throughout Egypt. This support includes the coverage of emergency life-saving services for heart attacks, road traffic accidents, intensive care for adult in addition to caesarian sections for complicated cases and neonatal intensive care for premature babies and many other emergencies life-threatening. Without these funds, specialized medical care for Syrian refugees would be impossible, given the high costs. Through flexible funding such as that received from the Government of Kuwait, WHO is able to respond immediately and be proactive in identifying urgent health needs for Syrian refugees in Egypt.

Today, there are 120 154 Syrian refugees in Egypt in need of health care. As part of the 2017 Syria Refugee Response and Resilience plan (3RP), the health sector in Egypt requirse US$ 15 million, of which US$ 1.75 million is required by WHO.

Key health-related statistics

Total health expenditure (% of general government expenditure) 5.6
Primary health care centres and units (per 10 000 population) 0.6
Total life expectancy at birth (years) 73.2

Source: Country statistical profiles (2016)

Egypt country health profile

Global Health Observatory. Egypt statistics summary (2002–present)

Regional Health Observatory