Aleppo doctor: ‘Shedding tears for the injured children of Syria is not enough’

Dr Zaher Sahloul has worked in Aleppo and seen the horrific affect of airstrikes. He says incidents like that which left Omran Daqneesh stunned and bloodied are all too common in a city under siege.

Zaher Sahloul writes: The pictures of the injured five-year old Omran Daqneesh have shocked the world, but doctors in Aleppo see dozens of desperate children like him every week, often with worse injuries and many entirely beyond help.

Perhaps his individual tragedy will have a small silver lining if it reminds people far beyond Syria of the tragedy that has been unfolding there for years. Every time I work there I treat children, often so terribly wounded and traumatised that I wonder if the ones who survived were unluckier than the ones who died.

I keep a picture from a second-grader in Aleppo, of helicopters bombing the city, blood and destruction below, but what is really shocking for me is that the dead children are smiling while the living ones are crying.

I also keep photos of my first ever patient in Aleppo, a toddler called Hamzeh who had been shot by a government sniper, and brought to the hospital intensive care unit with a bullet in his brain. I had to tell his family he was brain dead, and then turn off the ventilator, which can be particularly hard in Syria because if the heart is beating many people cannot accept their child has no hope of surviving.

Then there was Abdullah, who was 12, and injured by shrapnel from a barrel bomb. He asked me, screaming in pain but still somehow polite, to stop trying to insert a tube into his chest without anaesthetic.

“I kiss your hand uncle, please stop,” he begged me, but we had no painkillers and he would die if I did not drain the blood pooling around his lungs, so I carried on. I also think often of the two young sisters who were brought to another emergency room hugging each other, but already dead.

Omran survived, without losing a limb or an eye, but he will be traumatised forever. And there are bombings every day, so who knows what will happen in coming days or weeks, he could be hit again.

We say this is a powerful picture, but will it translate into meaningful action to protect these children? They are not dolls to cry over and then move on. That is the worst thing, everyone is looking at these pictures, but who will do anything? [Continue reading…]

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