Czech doctors perform eye-surgery on Syrian refugees in Jordan

Jiří Pašta, photo: Štěpán Macháček

Czech doctors annually perform around 1,000 surgical operations on Syrian refugees in Jordan. The assistance, which is for free, comes within the Czech government’s humanitarian aid program MEDEVAC which helps people in regions afflicted by war.

Jiří Pašta,  photo: Štěpán Macháček
One of the medical teams that regularly travel to Jordan is a team of Czech ophthalmologists who perform eye surgery on children and adults with inborn defects or war injuries.

Doctor Jiří Pašta gives directions to a patient as he operates on her eyes. He laughs at his new-found linguistic skills.

“Hani taught me a few expressions I need to communicate with the patient. Things like “open your eyes” or “look into the light”. So when I say “ta ala ala dau” they know what to do”.”

Different specialists from the Czech Republic take turns performing surgery and treating refugees in Jordan all year round. Since the aid program started financial aid for it has doubled to around 30 million crowns annually for Jordan alone. In the two weeks he has just spent in Amman doctor Pašta operated on more than 100 people.

He says news of the Czech aid program spreads by word of mouth and the interest among refugees is huge.

“The hospital where we are working is perfectly equipped for the job – they have the most modern equipment available. And this work makes sense. The refugees here have reached a safe haven and it is possible to help them start a new life. I am very happy to be able to do that.”

Photo: Štěpán Macháček
Hannan Kabbanni is one of the many patients who has undergone surgery here. She is a teacher who fled from Damascus with her family.

“I heard about the possibility of having this eye-surgery from a friend. So I asked for medical attention and a few days later they told me when the surgery would take place. It was a success and the Czech doctors were very kind to me.”

Hannan is now waiting to have her other eye operated on. She has been displaced for 6 years, now lives in a small rented flat in Amman and says the ordeal cost her family almost all their savings.

“We spent all our savings here in Amman. There was no way I could afford to pay for eye surgery. So this humanitarian aid program was my only chance.”

The MEDEVAC aid program started operating in Jordan five years ago. At first refugees were flown to the Czech Republic for treatment but this was complicated and costly since it meant ferrying and accommodating patients and family members to the Czech Republic for treatment that often lasted for several months.

Jiří Pašta,  photo: Štěpán Macháček
Gradually the pattern changed and Czech specialists were flown to Jordan instead. Now teams of doctors take turns helping all year round. Between now and December six more teams – including a trauma team and orthopaedists-will take turns treating patients for a period of two weeks each. The Czech ambassador to Jordan, Petr Hládek, says the recipients of the aid program have changed over the years.

“At the outset, when the conflict was peaking, it was essential to treat refugees with war injuries. Now we are increasingly treating people who can’t afford medical attention, we are helping to improve their lives. And by bringing the aid to them here we are reducing their motivation to travel further afield in search of it.”