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Story Publication logo March 28, 2016

Reporter's Notebook: A Small Comfort for a Burned Child


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The Healing

One of the under-reported stories of Syria's Civil War is the deliberate targeting of hospitals by...

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Multiple Authors
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Rimaz, 2, is comforted by nurse Jennifer Nitschke-Thomas while her second-degree burns are treated at the Zaatari Refugee Camp. Image by Mark Hoffman. Jordan, 2016.

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan—The little girl howled pitifully when her mother tried to remove her jacket. Under the left sleeve, the child's shoulder and back bore a large, red, second-degree burn.

It may have been a consequence of the close quarters in which many families live at the Zaatari refugee camp.

The girl, Rimaz, is only 2 years and three months old, her mother explained. But 20 days ago, she was burned by hot water from the family's tea pot.

The mother, who asked to be called Um Bilal (mother of Bilal, after her eldest son), said the family left Syria when their house in the city of Nawa was hit by a barrel bomb. They came to Zaatari two years ago.

In Zaatari, they are a large family living in a small space.

Asked if the crowded conditions might have contributed to the accident that caused her daughter's burn, the mother answered, "Yes. We are 10 people in one caravan."

Caravans are the pre-fab structures that have become home for 80,000 Syrian refugees at Zaatari. Each caravan is about 200 square feet.

Rimaz came to the clinic run by the Syrian American Medical Society to have her wound cleaned and dressed. She cried in Syrian, "Mama. Mama. Mama."

Jennifer Nitschke-Thomas, a nurse from Wisconsin, crouched beside the girl, trying to comfort her. The burn had to be cleaned with iodine, then wrapped in an antibiotic-coated dressing.

In the United States, the nurse said, this procedure would be done in a special unit and the patient would receive pain medication.

"Here it is done without any pain medication," she said.

Rimaz bore the pain well. After a few minutes her crying faded to a slight whimper.

Within 15 minutes she was quiet and calm, ready to return to the caravan with her mother.


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