The scope of this suffering

Surgeon Ashraf Al Bostanji talks about his experiences working the reconstructive hospital in Amman in Jordan.

What encouraged me to join MSF’s reconstructive surgery project in 2008 was my interest in trying out something new in Oral, Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS), especially in a humanitarian organisation with an outstanding expertise in OMS. 

To be honest, I didn’t have a clear sense of the suffering of war victims based on media reports. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I realised the scope of this suffering. Just a few weeks into my work at the project, I started to grasp the suffering that these victims endure because of awful disfigurations in different parts of their bodies, and particularly in the face. 

It’s as if wars have robbed them of the right to remember their faces, not to mention the partial and full burn injuries, and amputated limbs. 

Gradually, my passion for a new OMS specialty gave way to a deep feeling of the need to work in order to help those injured. 

This urge was further strengthened by the immense progress and success with which the surgery team managed  to redress both the malfunctions and the aesthetics of the injured body parts. These achievements, which we are proud of as humanitarian surgeons, have had a considerable contribution to rehabilitating the victims and helping reintegrate them into their societies. 

MSF's reconstructive surgery hospital in Amman. © Enass Abu Khalaf-Tuffaha/MSF

Despite the unquestionable importance of this project since the outset, the surge in violence in the region in 2011 and the large increase in the numbers of victims made us understand how badly it is needed in the region, and to appreciate the advanced surgeries it provides, thanks to cutting-edge techniques and the continuous search for novelties to offer high-quality medical care. 

Moving to a multi-section medical facility that can receive more patients has helped to improve the quality of the medical care. For example, an additional surgery section with more operating rooms helps us to accommodate a larger number of wounded patients. 

From our perspective as a surgery team, we are very happy with MSF’s decision to move to a new hospital, as this will improve the quality of medical care we provide and the work environment. 

This step will also turn the project into a fully-fledged and integrated regional centre for sharing experience and providing training for surgeons, physiotherapists and mental health support specialists. It will also be instrumental in the interactive sharing of best practices in dealing with war victims. 

I sincerely hope that we will not have to deal with a new rise in the number of wounded people, and that we will see an end to the violence that has shattered the Middle East. I also hope we won’t have to deal in the future with long-standing cases that are still in need of rehabilitation many years later.

Read more about MSF’s newly upgraded reconstructive surgery hospital in Amman, Jordan