Moroccan doctor roams mountains to treat earthquake victims

Moroccan doctor roams mountains to treat earthquake victims

Zouhair Lahna, known as 'Doctor of the Poor,' has traveled to more than 10 countries, some mired in wars, to provide medical care

By Khalid Mejdoup

RABAT, Morocco (AA) - Zouhair Lahna, known as the “Doctor of the Poor,” has been roaming mountainous areas of Morocco to provide medical help to victims of a Sept. 8 earthquake.

Lahna targets patients in remote villages with no means of reaching hospitals in the city.

This is not Lahna’s first volunteer experience. He has traveled to more than 10 countries, some of which were mired in wars and chaos, to provide medical care to residents.

At least 2,946 people were killed when the magnitude 7 quake struck Morocco.

Injuries stood at 6,125, in addition to large-scale damage to buildings and infrastructure, according to the Interior Ministry.

The quake, which hit the central region, was the strongest to hit the North African country in a century, according to Morocco’s National Geophysical Institute.

- Field experience

The Moroccan doctor’s previous field experiences have facilitated his journey through the High Atlas Mountains.

Alongside Lahna, five doctors roam quake-hit villages to provide first aid and perform surgeries.

Lahna told Anadolu that large medical convoys are usually limited by time and can target a few villages.

“However, I’m able to visit a large number of villages as part of smaller medical campaigns,” said Lahna.

He noted that he does not “waste time by staying at a hotel in Marrakesh or another city since it’s far from targeted villages.”

- Humanitarian stories

The doctor started his trip from villages near Setti Fatma in the city of Tahanaout.

He said patients with initial serious injuries were already transferred to Marrakesh.

“My work is currently limited to providing first aid, providing medical advice to those suffering from chronic diseases, treating wounds and changing bandages,” said Lahna. “I am currently working with a hemiplegia patient in the Tamasent village.”

He said: “Hemiplegia patients need to implement some movements in their daily routine, otherwise they would suffer from edema.”

“Therefore, I am training my patient’s wife to help him exercise correctly so he can at least stand on his feet,” he said.

The Moroccan doctor coordinated with a nurse to follow up on a 19-year-old patient with lower body paralysis.

He pointed out that the distance between health centers and villages worsens the situation of patients in such areas.

With the help of a team of other doctors, Lahna was able to travel to a remote village in the Atlas Mountains where he treated a woman named Yamna.

The grandmother in her seventies suffered from an injury to her nose and lower eyelid after she fainted and fell.

She was transferred to Tahanaout Hospital, which was at least three hours from her home.

She had her nose stitched but she refused to have her eyelid stitched.

“Yamna’s wound needed to be stitched, otherwise she would have been exposed to infections,” said Lahna.

He convinces Yamna to perform a painless surgery.

In addition to treating patients, Lahna provides first-aid medical training to young villagers.

- Sacred mission

Lahna traveled to war-torn Syria and the Gaza Strip during the 2014 Israeli military operation.

He also was in Afghanistan during the war led by the US against Al-Qaeda in 2001. And he provided assistance to patients in more than four African countries, including ones in civil wars.

Lahna was born in 1966 in the Derb Sultan neighborhood in Casablanca. He studied in his hometown until he received his medical degree in 1992 from Hassan II University. He then moved to Paris to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology.

*Writing by Ikram Kouachi

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