A top Wirral plastic surgeon aims to create a UK-based specialist team to help the victims of the Syrian Civil War after returning from a week treating children injured in the conflict.
It was the second time Ali Juma, who is based at Spire Murrayfield Hospital, Heswall has been to the war-torn region to carry out humanitarian work. He was part of a team put together by the US-based LEAP Global Missions, which saw over 90 patients and performed surgery on 37 victims of blast, shrapnel, and severe burns at the Safad Hospital in Tripoli in Lebanon.
The 54-year-old father of two was fulfilling a pledge he made 12 months ago after his first mercy relief mission to the region when he and a LEAP team spent eight days in Jordan.
On his return this time he said: “It was certainly a busy week and we were able to see between 90 and 100 patients, the majority of whom were children. We operated on 37. The conditions in the hospital this time were more difficult than in Jordan with shortages of staff and local supplies; however, it was fortunate that we had brought dressings, equipment and other materials donated by Spire Murrayfield, and LEAP Global Missions. The patients we saw were as young as 19 months old, having suffered secondary effects of severe burns and other injuries, which they sustained as a direct result of the war, or as a result of living in the camps because they were displaced by the war. There were scald injuries because in the camps, cooking and boiling water is done on stoves on the ground, and there are also blast and shrapnel injuries from the war. The LEAP Global Missions was mainly the same team I worked with 12 months ago and on this occasion I brought with me a trainee plastic surgeon and a senior critical care paramedic from the UK. The team gelled well straight away and we all just seemed to pick up where we left off last time, which set us up for a good start. To enjoy oneself working on such a mission isn’t the correct term, but we all worked hard and cohesively, which achieved successful mission objectives; all of which is certainly fulfilling and satisfying.”
Julie Watkinson, Hospital Director at Spire Murrayfield, said: “We were again happy to help Ali with the mission to Lebanon where he and his team carried out more fantastic work among the victims of this terrible conflict. It would be wonderful if the work he has been involved in so far could continue and that it would inspire a British-based response team and we would be happy to continue our support for that.”
Mr Juma, who specialises in face, breast and body contouring surgery at Spire Murrayfield, has over 24 years’ experience in plastic surgery and in the management of trauma and reconstruction. He said: “We have been able to do a lot but it’s important for the patients’ recovery that they get long-term care. We have set up some systems so that we can help manage them in the short-term but it is the long term that is of great concern and importance. What I’m concerned with is the longer-term effect of the injuries and that needs years of care especially in the case of the children treated. I would like to go more often and to set up a UK-based team that could go out there twice a year and do more for them. I also intend to join LEAP Global Missions on further relief missions and between us coordinate helping those in need with more frequent visits. This will require logistical organisation, support and funding, at all levels. Generosity and philanthropy is out there and it’s a matter of looking for and finding it.”