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Life and Death Struggle for the Children of Syria

Life and Death Struggle for the Children of Syria

Franklin Lamb
Damascus

Meals for Syrian Children Refugees acknowledges that no one can help every Syrian child during the continuing carnage in their beloved country. But we aver that everyone can have the honor of fulfilling the solemn duty of each of us--to help someone.

The Story of One Child's Struggle to Survive:

On 2/17/2017 ten year old Ghina Wadi, who has spent the past seven months often in unbearable pain, which for the first month was periodically relieved for only approximately 15 minutes at a time- by heavy injections of morphine, had another of what hopefully this time will be a leg saving operation. The operation took place at a surgical hospital in Jaramana, ten kilometers Southeast of Damascus not far from the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Jaramana.

Ghina was shot by a sniper on 8/2/2016 on the main street in Madaya at the Abdel Majed checkpoint when she was on her way to buy medicine for her mother, Sahar. Her accompanying seven-year-old sister Nagham was also injured in her hand and arm.

Among 21,000 other town residents from her previous home, Ghina's family had months earlier been forced, to flee from the nearby town of Zabadani in the proximity of Wadi Barada close the Syrian-Lebanon border in the Qalamoun Mountains. The exploding bullet smashed Ghina's left leg and thigh causing a complex pulverized bone fracture and severed nerves in her left leg. Infection immediately set in and has repeatedly returned during the past half year.

Two weeks after being shot, permission was granted for Ghina to be evacuated to a better equipped Damascus hospital since medical facilities in Madaya could not save her leg and amputation was under serious consideration.


Saving One Child at a Time
(image by Meals for Syrian Children Refugees)
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The urgent surgery, hopefully Gina’s last, having removed internal leg and thigh pins and cut away some of the infection and now being treated with strong antibiotics, hopefully she will heal quickly despite still being malnourished. MSRCL hopes that Ghina can soone enter a public school near her home. While receiving home schooling the past few months, and despite Ghina's worry that "kids will make fun of me because of my leg" her mother agrees that being among other children and socializing will be better and may well aid her recovery. This observer, from his time in Syria and among Syrian refugee children in Lebanon has learned that children have a wonderful capacity to help one another when they learn from where their new friends came from in Syria and what happened to their families. A kind of therapy one imagines.

Ghina's 3 year old brother Kamal and her 4 year old sister Manal are still under siege in Madaya. They have not seen their mother or sisters for nearly eight months and as with the general population of Madaya, and 16 other locals in Syria similarly besieged, food, water, electricity, medicines are becoming more scare daily. Below: 4 Photos of Ghina taken on 2/18/2017 at Jaramana Surgical Hospital:

Conditions in Madaya as of 2/20/2017

With respect to the current conditions in Madaya, a brief description was offered last week, by the UN humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Ali al-Za'atari.

Mr. al-Za’atari warned of dire conditions in the still besieged Madaya, referencing it as a "looming humanitarian catastrophe.” He added that “The principle of free access to people in need must be implemented now and without repeated requests.”

The slow death by starvation, lack of medical facilities and water, as well as other factors in Madaya is complicated by the "tit-for-tat arrangement" between the fighting proxies, whereby no aid will be allowed into Sunni and Christian Madaya or Zabandni without similar access to Shia towns of Fua and Kafraya, SW of Aleppo. The UN humanitarian coordinator for Syria, and the WHO as well as many humanitarian actors in Syria point out that this political linkage of the so-called Four Towns Agreement “ is itself a violation of international humanitarian law and makes humanitarian access prone to painstaking negotiations that are not based on humanitarian principles.”

According to the UN representative in Syria last week, “The ‘tit-for-tat” arrangement has prevented medical cases from receiving proper treatment and blocks urgent life or death evacuations. People are in need, and they cannot wait any longer. We need to act now."

The UN reports that 600,000 people in Syria are under “war crimes sieges” in conditions similar to those in Madaya.

A report by the group Physicians for Human Rights said 65 people died of malnutrition and starvation in Madaya between the start of the siege, June 2015 and July 2016.Today the number is claimed to be more than 90 persons having died in Madaya from just starvation. Lack of medical facilities has caused, to date, the preventable deaths of over 250 persons according to one ICRC source that monitors conditions in Madaya while they wait for permission to deliver aid to the dying town.

Chronic health conditions and infectious diseases had gone untreated because of a lack of medicine and specialized care - aid groups said the only people left in the clinic were two dentistry students and a veterinarian.

A report by Save the Children last month said there had been 12 suicide attempts this past July and August, the youngest being a 12-year-old girl. Ms Mirna Yacoub, from the UN’s children charity Unicef working in Syria reported one such incident: "There was [an attempt by] a mother-of-five who said she couldn't feed and care for the children, and a student who couldn't go to school anymore.

Miscarriages are increasing because women were unable to keep their pregnancies. Caesareans were also more common because of the poor health of pregnant women - some were so weak they could not go through normal labor.”

Abeer, a mother of two living in Madaya, told UNICEF that she has been forced to feed her infant sugared water instead of milk. Her three-year-old eats meals of stewed tree leaves. Her children, she said, are literally wasting away.

“Madaya is now effectively an open-air prison for an estimated 20,000 people, including infants, children, and elderly,” reported Brice de le Vingne, MSF director of operations. “The medics we support report injuries and deaths by bullets and landmines among people that tried to leave Madaya. The desperation is so acute that in one case people rioted trying to seize the last food available at an MSF-supported distribution point, which was intended to provide for the most vulnerable.”

The horror of Madaya is not unique. While much of the world remains uninformed of their plight, or are in disagreement over who is to blame, hundreds of thousands of Syrians remain blocked by besieging forces. Separating the facts from the political agendas of various proxy militias is difficult but necessary toward ending the “Kneel or Starve” conflict.

Humanitarian organizations operating inside Syria were are being blamed for their failure to save lives in Madaya which is only 15 miles (25km) from their plush offices in Damascus less than an hour from the starving prison town of Madaya.

Many children, including Ghina’s four year old sister Manal and here three year old brother Kamal are today experiencing severe headaches caused by the lack of food. "They need nutritional meals, vegetables, fruits. There is no meat or milk. They are eating only rice…“They are malnourished; there is a severe lack of vitamins. They don't have protein.” according to Ingy Sedky, an ICRC employee based in Damascus who was able to visit Madaya briefly last year.

As what little food is left in Madaya is quickly used up, residents have accused militia and crooked traders of making huge profits at the expense of starving citizens. Two examples: The price of 2.2lb (1kg) of rice in Madaya is currently $250, and the same weight of bulgur costs upward of $200. Baby formula costs nearly $300 per container. Crooked traders are reported ot store food and wait for more to starve and then to sell at extremely high prices,” according to Ali Ibrahim two weeks ago who is still trapped in Madaya.

Chronic health conditions and infectious diseases had gone untreated because of a lack of medicine and specialized care - aid groups said the only people left in the clinic were two dentistry students and a veterinarian.

A report by Save the Children last month said there had been 12 suicide attempts this past July and August, the youngest being a 12-year-old girl. Ms Mirna Yacoub, from the UN’s children charity UNICEF working in Syria reported one such incident: "There was [an attempt by] a mother-of-five who said she couldn't feed and care for the children, and a student who couldn't go to school anymore.

Miscarriages are increasing because women were unable to keep their pregnancies. Caesareans were also more common because of the poor health of pregnant women - some were so weak they could not go through normal labor.”

Abeer, a mother of two living in Madaya, told UNICEF that she has been forced to feed her infant sugared water instead of milk. Her three-year-old eats meals of stewed tree leaves. Her children, she said, are literally wasting away.

MSRCL is continuing their efforts to obtain the release from Madaya of Ghina and Nagham’s siblings Manal and Kamal as well as to lift the now nearly 20 month long siege imprisoning Madaya's 38,000 residents.


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