Syria’s doctors on the frontline

Borzou Daragahi reports: Just a few more days, the pediatrician assured his friend, and he would come back. Doctor Hatem, as he is known in the tight-knit community of Syria war physicians, had an important exam to take in Istanbul, a half-hearted attempt at career development in the midst of the chaos that had engulfed his homeland. Hatem asked his fellow pediatrician and friend, Muhammad Waseem Moaz, to delay his own long-planned break a little while longer so he could sit for the test.

“You stay, and I will change places with you later,” he promised his friend.

The last couple weeks of April had been a particularly stressful stretch of the war. A shaky cessation of hostilities between pro- and anti-Syrian regime forces was crumbling in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital and largest city. Casualties were mounting again as helicopters and planes pounded the city with barrel bombs. One day a missile landed in the city, barely missing the Children’s Hospital, where Hatem is the senior doctor.

Then there was the daily battle to stock up on essential supplies. Transit routes to opposition-held territory in eastern Aleppo had closed as rebels lost control to fighters from the regime of Bashar al-Assad, to ISIS, or to Kurdish militias. Only the dangerous Castello Road leading to the northwest, through Idlib province, remained open. Doctors had stocked up on six months of supplies, but the regime appeared to be targeting their warehouses. “We used to get supplies through Kilis, but now everything is affected by the siege,” Hatem said. [Continue reading…]

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