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Jordan-Syria border closure forces MSF to shut Zaatari clinic

Jordanian authorities are urged to reopen the border to fleeing Syrians [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 December, 2016

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Medecins Sans Frontieres has been forced to shut a clinic as Jordanian authorities refuse to allow war-wounded Syrian refugees to seek treatment across the border.
A clinic for war-wounded Syrian refugees in Jordan has been forced to shut, Medecins Sans Frontieres has announced.

The closure of the facility at the Zaatari refugee camp, 80km north of Amman, which provided post-operative care to refugees comes six months after the kingdom sealed its border with Syria.

"Knowing that there are probably patients dying, just a few kilometres away on the other side of the border, because of lack of access to medical care, is shameful," said Marjan Besuijen, MSF project coordinator in Zaatari.

"The wards inside the Zaatari clinic are silent, no longer filled with conversations or laughter. But this is not because the violence in Syria has diminished in any way, nor that there are no wounded in need of medical treatment.

"This is solely due to a physical barrier depriving those desperately in need of lifesaving medical care from receiving it."

Knowing that there are probably patients dying, just a few kilometres away on the other side of the border, because of lack of access to medical care, is shameful

The clinic hosted patients recovering from surgery carried out in nearby hospitals, including at Ramtha hospital where MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, runs a surgical project.

Jordan decided to seal its borders with Syria on June 21 after a car bomb attack killed seven Jordanian border guards. This halted the medical evacuation of war-wounded Syrians to Ramtha hospital, where MSF workers provided emergency surgical care for more than three years.

In turn, referrals to 40-bed Zaatari clinic have plummeted.

Since March 2014, the clinic has treated 531 patients referred from Ramtha, provided 2,143 outpatient consultations, 1,454 physiotherapy sessions and more than 2,500 mental health consultations.

Ramtha hospital is open while a limited number of war-wounded people are allowed into Jordan – but MSF warns it too could shut.

Field hospitals in southern Syria are overstretched and short of staff and equipment, it added.

Injured patients may be transferred from one field hospital to the next, looking for medical expertise or equipment to perform complex surgeries, while travelling across Syria risks their chance of survival.

While we can continue to wait for the borders to open, the seriously wounded do not have the option to wait

MSF has reiterated its call for Jordanian authorities to consider reopening the border, claiming there have been at least 70 cases of war-wounded Syrians – 16 of them children – being denied permission to cross the Jordanian border.

"With fighting and airstrikes intensifying in south Syria since late September, we have received information that the number of Syrians injured in this brutal conflict has mounted," said Luis Eguiluz, MSF's head of mission in Jordan.

"However, our ability to save lives has been seriously restricted now that war wounded are not allowed in.

"While we can continue to wait for the borders to open, the seriously wounded do not have the option to wait."

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