Mission with a difference


  • Nation
  • Monday, 24 Mar 2003

By P.K. Katharason and Shahanaaz Habib

SAFE HAVEN: A Sudanese refugee toddler playing with a doll outside tents set-up by the Jordanian Red Crescent in the border area of Ruweished, on Saturday. - AFPpic

AMMAN: Iraq will be a different sort of experience for Mercy Malaysia compared to past medical and humanitarian relief operations overseas. 

Mercy’s International Relief Manager Anita Ahmad said in their past missions to countries like Afghanistan, they went in after the crisis had happened but for the Iraqi situation, members were there before it happened. 

She said for this mission, Mercy members providing relief to Iraq’s internally displaced persons and refugees would have to stay in tents – something they had not done before. 

Two days before the bombings, Anita went to Ruweished at the Jordanian border where relief organisations had put up tents in preparation for the arrival of refugees. 

“It was so cold and very windy. There was sand flying everywhere. Our faces became brown from the sand. 

“It was also difficult to put up the tents because of the strong winds. It was quite bad. But things are better now. They are now using a different type of tent. 

“They have just built toilets. But there is no hot water and no showers,” she said in an interview here. 

Anita, who arrived here on March 15 along with Dr Zalina Nusi, said it was also different because it was hard to predict whether biological and chemical weapons would be used and how long the war would go on.  

Anita and Dr Zalina’s purpose was to sign up with relief organisations, work on logistics and lay the ground work so that everything would be in order when the first Mercy medical relief team arrives. 

She said paediatric surgeon Dr Lai Fui Boon, physican (respiratory) Dr Jeffrey Abu Hassan and nurse Mathina Bee Gulam Mydin are expected to arrive here tomorrow. 

She said Mercy Malaysia had signed two MOUs with the Jordan Red Crescent and Islamic Relief to be their medical relief partners. 

She said the team would first work with the Jordanian Red Crescent at Ruweished and later, after the “bombings subside,” move within Iraq to work with Islamic Relief. 

She said the partners would identify the area of need, provide food, shelter and blankets while Mercy Malaysia would attend to the medical needs. 

Mercy has also pledged a donation and equipment for primary health care worth 5000 Jordanian dinars (RM26,874) to the Jordanian Red Crescent because they needed a clinic in the camp. 

On a more personal note, Anita said she was not sure when she was going to return to Malaysia. 

Her sister was in Jordan for a holiday in 1991 when the Gulf War broke out and she was stuck in Jordan for a month.  

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