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Tears at Atareb General Hospital

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dr Safwan, a Hand in Hand for Syria medic currently in the UK for ENT (ear-nose-throat) specialist training, shudders when he hears the words ‘barrel bombs’.

“They are so destructive, there’s no discrimination in where they fall. Just before I came to the UK, I had to go to a neighbourhood in Aleppo which had been very badly bombed. Around 16 buildings had collapsed – I was trying to help the injured who were trapped within the rubble. I can’t even describe what that was like.”

Chemical weapons & barrel bombs
The longer the war continues, the worse the suffering becomes. In the past few weeks, reports indicating the use of chemical weapons – this time, chlorine – have once again surfaced, and the use of barrel bombs (crude devices made of metal, oil and explosives) is continuing unabated. Thousands have been killed by barrel bombs in Aleppo so far this year, and many more seriously injured.

Absent & exhausted doctors
The medical system inside the country is struggling to cope, and doctors – already low in numbers due to many having fled, been arrested or killed in the fighting – are suffering under the weight of the crisis. Dr Safwan, who initially had to work in secrecy to avoid being targeted, is simply exhausted.

“Back in Syria, I never took a break,” he says. “I was on call 24 hours a day. People always needed me. As an ENT doctor, I was always called out for victims who had been trapped and inhaled too much dust, or had suffered bad facial injuries. There are just not enough of us to treat everyone.”

Equipment & medication desperately needed
There aren’t enough medical supplies, either. As a result, many patients who could have been treated do not survive.

“The hardest thing was when children arrived at the ER, and I knew I couldn’t help them,” continues Dr Safwan. “Sometimes, when nothing could be done, I would just cry. There is a severe need for more equipment, and more medication.”

Our hospital at Atareb is a lifeline in a ravaged area
Hospitals are a rare commodity in Syria today, and those such as ours in Atareb are even rarer. Here, we not only have an A&E department and various clinics, but we have also recently opened a new neonatal unit – something which is vital in a conflict where premature births are skyrocketing.

“Hand in Hand’s general hospital in Atareb is invaluable,” says Dr Safwan, “It is a lifeline for so many Syrians.”

The onslaught is intensifying
As the only functioning hospital in the wider area, it sees large numbers arriving at its doors each day. Between last November and April, a staggering 14,978 patients were brought to the emergency department. Of those, 1,498 remained in hospital, and 1,414 underwent surgery. And the numbers keep on rising. In the past few weeks, the government’s onslaught of Atareb has intensified – just a few days ago, the town’s busy market was struck. 31 are known to have been killed in the explosion. Over 100 were injured.

We need your help!
Keeping hospitals such as this in operation is crucial – but we need your help. As the numbers of injured rise, so too do the costs. Your donations will help us keep our hospitals running, so that doctors like Dr Safwan can continue working to save lives.

“Syria’s people are dying in conditions we wouldn’t accept for our animals. I just hope that your support will help end their suffering,” concludes Dr Safwan.