Syria, 2020. © MSF

No Farewell for a Child

Dr. Reza Eshaghian shares experience working as a Medical Team Leader in Al Hol

Dr Reza Eshaghian

The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic in the Annex of Al Hol camp, Syria, is located in the “Annex service area”, with a controlled access point, and is open from 9am to 2pm. One morning in this clinic, a colleague asked me to examine a patient with him.

I entered the room, and saw a three-year-old boy with second-degree burns on his face, arms, chest and abdomen. He was motionless and silent, and tears were streaming from his eyes. He was in a lot of pain.

His mother explained that while she was out of the tent getting food, the boy dropped the fuel radiator and the tent caught fire. The accident had happened the day before. Knowing that the clinic wouldn’t open until the following morning due to local authority safety protocols, she and her son waited for the gate to open. He spent the whole night without medical care or painkillers.

The child was remarkably stoic, but his suffering was nonetheless very evident. Our team set up an intravenous line and was able to relieve his pain and administer fluids. We organized his transfer to Hassakeh for further treatment. His mother had to say goodbye, as she would not be allowed to accompany him, as required by the strict rules of the local authorities.

Every day afterwards, the boy’s mother would come to the clinic to ask about her son in Hassakeh. We tried to follow the referral chain to obtain information on his condition, but all we could find out was that he was still hospitalized.

Two days later, the referral office informed us that the three-year-old boy had died alone in hospital.

It was heartbreaking to have to break the sad news to his mother.

Due to the temporary suspension of burials in the camp and the strict restrictions put in place by the authorities, the boy’s body could not be returned to the camp. His mother never saw him again. We tried to get him photographed so that his mother could see him one last time, but it didn’t work.

The boy was buried two weeks later in a town he had never set foot in, surrounded by people he had never known.