Day One - Madaba
20% of the people living in Jordan now are Syrian refugees, and Madaba is one of the towns further into the country where many Syrians have settled.
The temporary clinic we attended in Madaba saw 850 patients for numerous things - internal medicine, dental care, optometry as well as dermatology. In the dermatology tent we saw 90 patients with various skin ailments, mostly dry skin, eczema, untreated diabetic skin ulcers, rosacea, acne and more.
Two cases stood out because their dry skin was so bad it had cracked and had become infected, at first a very minor issue that has turned into a big problem. The other was a diabetic man that had open sores on his feet for two months. He went home with medication, gauze and a lot of Vaseline® Jelly.
One little girl came in to see if the doctors could do something for her scars. Her family were fleeing from airstrikes. She ran through the debris and sustained injuries to her face.
Dr Grace Bandow paused and told our translator, “I can’t do anything for her scars, but we’re going to tell this little girl something good. Let me think…” Then she told the girl how we get scars from experiences and experiences make us strong. So her scars are beautiful because they are a sign that she is strong and brave.
Day Two - Al Mafraq
On our way to Al Mafraq a village adjacent to a smaller refugee camp near the border of Iraq, a Jordanian doctor with us told us more about Syria. He said Syria had been a rich country. It has natural resources like gas and oil, and more water so it is fertile and green.
The Syrians in Jordan, while grateful for a safe haven, desperately wanted to go home. Apart from being displaced, they find Jordan a harsh environment to live in, and as refugees account for an ever greater portion of Jordan’s population, they find themselves less welcome.
This was on my mind when a woman came in wearing the full niqab. She said that at home in Syria she wore a hijab (a headscarf, not covering the face), but in Jordan she felt ashamed so she wanted to hide her face. She was a proud person and did not like being reduced to living off handouts.
We also saw a man that came from one of the border towns that was attacked in the early days of the conflict. He told us a harrowing tale of trying to rescue a neighbor during a missile attack and being hit. He spent 16 days, badly injured, trying to escape across the border to Jordan. By the time he got medical care, it was too late to repair many of his injuries. He walks with a cane and has one fully usable arm. But he was alive, able to walk, and his immediate family also escaped the conflict, his young daughters were seeing the pediatrician and dentist.
We treated about 130 patients in all. One family of five came complaining of dry, itchy skin that started almost as soon as they arrived 2 years ago and plagues them constantly. They left with eczema treatment and Vaseline® Jelly. Eczema is probably the most common complaint. That and melasma. The Syrians tend to be very fair and so the constant exposure to the sun is damaging to their skin.