The National - News
Meet the Dubai doctor treating burns victims in Madagascar
A surgeon from Dubai is at the forefront of a humanitarian mission to perform free surgery on burn victims in Madagascar.
Twice a year for the past decade, Dr Hanieh Erdmann, 49, travelled to the Indian Ocean island nation where she also helped train doctors to cope with the increasing number of children who require urgent medical treatment.
Madagascar has suffered a series of residential blazes, often in districts where wooden shacks are packed together in poor neighbourhoods.
One fire in September 2016 killed eight people and burnt 50 homes to the ground in the capital Antananarivo. Another in July the same year left 38 dead, including 16 children.
The German medic performs skin grafts to repair the damage caused by burns and make disfiguring injuries less apparent.
The project in Madagascar has helped about 2,000 members of the community.
Dr Erdmann is a member of the newly formed Soroptimists International Club in Dubai, a networking group that encourages professionals to volunteer and improve the lives of women around the world.
“There are a lot of children suffering from body malformation caused by burns in Madagascar,” said Dr Erdmann, who is one of the first members of the Soroptimists in the Middle East.
“I will be travelling again to Madagascar in February or March next year to perform surgery on burn victims and people born with cleft lips, and I will be teaming up with other surgeons to perform free operations on patients, most of whom are children.
“We are educating the doctors over there and performing the surgeries with them.”
In addition to burn victims, Dr Erdmann, who specialises in dermatology and has been working at Dubai’s Clinica Joelle in Jumeirah since 2011, said that the island faced an increased number of children born with clubbed feet.
The condition would be treatable in developed countries but Madagascars’s poor medical infrastructure means many children are left to suffer.
“We were not prepared for the amount of children who have clubbed feet there,” she said. The cause of the affliction is unknown, but many experts believe it is genetic.
“It is a really complicated procedure with clubbed feet that requires patients to receive treatment every three weeks.
“The main problem we face is that the families come from far away to receive treatment. They have to walk up to 400 kilometres because they have no other form of transport and many people give up because of the distances involved.”
The Soroptimists have more than 75,000 members in 122 countries but there was no branch in this region until now.
The Dubai group’s founder, Sareh Ameri, 40, said one of the group’s core goals was to use their members’ expertise to raise awareness of humanitarian projects across the world.
The Dubai chapter already counts surgeons, journalists, interior designers and architects among its membership.
She said the group would also be supporting a project in the Philippines next year providing water and sanitation.
“Girls who reach puberty there often have to miss school because there is no access to basic toilet and water facilities,” said Ms Ameri, who is originally from Iran.
Although the Soroptimists mission is to help women and girls, their aid work often helps men and boys, too.
Ms Ameri said Soroptimists would “open doors” for women across the region.
“We wanted to help build a bridge for the women in this region to be able to liaise with women from all over the world,” she said.
“We already have women from 14 nationalities who are members here, so it will open a lot of doors for them, especially from a cultural aspect.”
The main problem we face is that the families come from far away to receive treatment. They have to walk up to 400 kilometres HANIEH ERDMANN Volunteer doctor