June 29, 2020
June 2020. What a strange time. It has never been like this before. The world seems to be upside down. One year ago, I was preparing for another medical mission to Jordan with SAMS. Nobody at that time could have imagined what all we would experience over the last few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On my last mission with SAMS, I had the chance to spend a few days in the Za’atari Refugee Camp. What an experience! Nearly 80,000 people in one place in the desert – truly crowded and packed. The living and sanitary conditions there, at minimum, at the poverty level.
Social distancing? Difficult.
Strict containment measures – like self-isolation and extra handwashing? Most likely an illusion, especially with children.
Medical facilities? Not bad.
ICU beds just in case? High-tech equipment? Ventilators ? Inadequate.
I continue to wonder and fear what would happen if COVID-19 reached the people behind the fence, with full force and unstoppable impact. For some, an infection would simply mean the end. I try not to think about it.
At the moment, few will think about these individuals. The world, each country, is concerned about itself – fighting and struggling to keep their own populations safe and alive, and facing social and economic consequences of crisis management. Why would they think about people in need so far away?
Refugees in these times end up being a forgotten and neglected group of people. They simply fall through the cracks.
I have a painting in my clinic that I took home from my last mission. It was painted on tent material by Mohammad Amiri, a Syrian artist who was stranded in Za’atari Camp. When I look at his artwork, it is like an outcry of pain, reminding me of the crisis at the camp every day.
I hope the resilience residents of Al-Za’atari and displaced populations elsewhere will manage to get through these difficult times, through all of the misery. I pray for changes and a better life for them.
And I hope to come back…soon.
Written by Dr. Bettina Seitz, SAMS Volunteer from Germany