Dr. Mustafa Ganijee, a member of the Manchester community of Dawoodi Bohras, recently spent time in Turkey providing medical services to people affected by the earthquake in Turkey. To mark World Health Day – which this year celebrates the 75th anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization – we spoke to Dr. Ganijee about his reflections and experiences.
“The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on 6th February had a magnitude of 7.8 and caused widespread damage to buildings, roads, and infrastructure. I remember watching the news in horror from the comfort of my home in Manchester. The rising death toll and images of families digging through rubble to find their loved ones was shocking.
The earthquake also caused significant damage to refugee camps in the region, where many displaced people were already struggling to survive. I had to do something to help.
I travelled down to Turkey where I volunteered at a medical camp run by Humanity First, which serves disaster-stricken and socially-disadvantaged individuals and families in the poorer communities of the world. The camp was located near Gaziantep in South-Central Turkey, home to thousands of Syrian refugees. The conditions at the camp were challenging, with limited resources, and a constant stream of patients. Many people had injuries and illnesses related to the earthquake, and some had pre-existing conditions that had gone untreated because of the lack of access to medical care.
The refugee situation in Turkey and Syria is a complex issue, with millions of people forced to flee their homes due to war, violence, and persecution. Many of these refugees live in camps, where they face a daily struggle for survival. The earthquake made their situation even worse, causing many to lose what little they had left. I got to see firsthand the challenges that refugees face every day and the resilience of the human spirit.
Despite these challenges, seeing the impact of the medical care we offered was incredibly rewarding. We would drive to three or four camps a day, each home to more than 100 people, most of whom had no access to healthcare. On average, our team cared for about 140 patients. Most were children with scabies and respiratory infections, and many have suffered crushed or amputated limbs. Without any medical records to consult, we did our best to manage chronic diseases in the most basic way.
It was heartwarming to see the smiles on the faces of patients when they received the care they needed. It showed me the resilience of the human spirit in the face of trauma and the power of empathy and compassion. It also made me understand the importance of supporting relief efforts and helping those affected by disasters.
There are many ways to help, from donating money to volunteering your time and skills. By working together, we can make a difference and help those affected by disasters around the world.”