At the heart of the Syrian conflict and devastation are helpless civilians. To help us shed light on their plight, following are insights from two individuals: Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International which is currently providing humanitarian assistance to 2.5 million people in Syria, including 1.7 million children. And Dr. Raphaël Pitti, a French medical doctor who trains Syrian doctors and nurses there.
Helle Thoorning-Schmidt: “Eastern Ghouta is basically a suburb of Damascus … and when war moves into these areas, it is an attack on civilians and particularly children. …These children are suffering from post-traumatic stress. Many of us will not know what that is, but that is children who are hiding or going into acute stress when they hear bombings, children who are wetting their beds, children who can’t sleep, and basically children who cannot function in a normal way.
“Almost 2 million people are in besieged areas and hard-to- reach areas denied food and also medical assistance. This is a new level of horror and I really fear that we are accepting this as the new normal. Basically it’s a war on children.”
Raphaël Pitti: “Syria had well-organized health and sanitary facilities until 2011, but it has all collapsed completely. Long-term, chronic illnesses are no longer treated, there are no vaccination programs, and of course cancer patients, diabetics or those with high blood pressure, etc get nothing. Today we can estimate that around 1.5 million people have died in Syria indirectly because of the ruined health system.
“Often the most competent doctors couldn’t take it anymore and left with their families. They were often replaced with medical students. Often people with no training at all offered their help. We have seen cleaning staff take on nursing duties, and then some becoming midwives. We’ve seen students become nurses, first year undergrads become vascular surgeons.
“When you are in a hospital with no supplies you see how conditions deteriorate and that has a direct effect on how you handle the flow of casualties. Triage becomes vital and there will be a certain number of patients who you could certainly have treated in different conditions, but here, with the numbers we have to deal with and lack of supplies, you will leave to die.
“The Syrian population has traveled a long way from the revolution it had hoped for. All Syrians are now hostages to one group or another, and it is the people who pay the highest price.”