Kerala

Iraq unrest: Anxious wait for nurses’ kin

Ever since the latest round of fighting broke out in Iraq, P.T. Jose from Kottayam, and John Abraham of Idukki have been swinging between hope and despair. Every time there’s a call from Iraq , there is hope all around, but when there’s none, despair sets in.

Their daughters are among the nearly 100 nurses stranded in Iraqi towns such as Tikrit and Mosul, caught in the cross-fire between the Iraqi army and the advancing insurgents. Mr. Abraham got a phone call from his daughter Shanty P. John, who works in the paediatric wing of the Medical College Hospital in Tikrit on Saturday night. “My daughter said three of them [nurses] are trapped in the hospital but almost all the others have left the place,” he told The Hindu.

He has not heard from her since, and is pinning all hopes on the Indian Embassy in Iraq to ensure her safe return. The embassy was quick to reach out to his family and assure them that his daughter and her colleagues would be moved to safer destinations at the earliest, he said.

There is greater confidence in Mr. Jose’s voice as he says that his daughter Mareena, one of the 46 nurses stranded at the hospital, called him on Monday afternoon as well. She informed him that though Red Cross representatives had promised to move them out of the city in two days, Indian Ambassador Ajay Kumar had asked them to stay put at the hospital till safe passage to the nearest airport, which was four hours drive away, could be arranged. “Yesterday, there was heavy fighting outside with bombs pounding the area. The rebels have entered their hospital compound and are now staying on the ground floor,” Mr. Jose said.

The hospital is functioning, though on skeleton staff, with only two doctors on duty. “She has not complained about shortage of food and water so far, but now the rebels have started using the food supply from the hospital as well,” said Mr. Jose pointing to the gravity of the situation. “By God’s grace, they have so far been treated well by the rebels,” he added.

In addition to the 46 nurses from Kerala in Tikrit, there were about 15 persons in the city of Mosul and another seven in Nasiriyah. These women have been in touch with one another. However, for the last two days many of them have not been able to use their telephones as communication links have been snapped. According to P. Sivadasan, who looks after issues concerning non-resident Keralites at Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s office, the CMO has so far received calls from relatives of 72 nurses in Iraq. Not all nurses want to return to India, he said, since many of them had serious financial problems back home. At least 12 of the nurses in Tikrit have expressed their desire to move to safer places within Iraq. A group of nurses had reached there only about four months ago and are yet to get their salaries, Mr. Sivadasan said.

With inputs from George Jacob (Kottayam), N.J. Nair (Thiruvananthapuram) and Mini Muringatheri (Thrissur)

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 11:03:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/iraq-unrest-anxious-wait-for-nurses-kin/article6120413.ece

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