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Aleppo: A Humanitarian Disaster Zone

Doctors find themselves without electricity, water or vital medical equipment
Aleppo: A Humanitarian Disaster Zone

Aleppo, the second largest Syrian governorate, is suffering after more than six months of bloody battles that have affected most of its countryside and the city's quarters.


The health situation there is equal a humanitarian disaster in every sense of the word.


Medical practitioners are unable to perform their roles and there is a crisis in the provision of both medicines and treatments. The task of saving a patient's life is near  impossible.


"There is no water, no electricity… everything is broken down," says Abu Ahmad, in his 50’s, who refused to leave city, preferring to share the suffering of his relatives.


"We are trying to manage our lives in our houses, but hospitals stop working for a time, so our wounded die quickly from their injuries that may not have been serious with minimum emergency care," he explains.


Hospital workers in both opposition-held areas and governmental hospitals in Aleppo find it extremely difficult to work. Doctors find themselves without electricity, water or vital medical equipment.


One doctor in a government hospital explains: "There is shortage in anesthetics and disinfectants required to do surgeries. I cannot feel but defeated when I see a patient I could save were it not for the medical shortages and miserable conditions.”


"On many occasions I had to amputate a hand or a leg because of major infections which we would usually be able to treat with medicine.


All of my professional skills disappear in one minute and I become like all the other doctors are here: useless," he says.


There are four working hospitals now in regime-held areas of Aleppo, while in opposition-held areas, houses have been transformed into private clinics and field hospitals to treat the wounded.


Even these miserable hospitals are targeted by continuous and random shelling, which deprives even civilians from getting basic medical services.


"Snipers don’t distinguish between a doctor, a civilian or a fighter," another doctor running a private clinic in the countryside of Aleppo says.


"We have difficulty moving between checkpoints. We are always accompanied by the danger of getting shot. Every doctor that treats the wounded members from the Free Syrian Army or even residents of opposition-held areas is wanted. They don’t care that we have taken an oath in our career.”


Holding back tears, he continues: "How can I conquer pain when I always arrive late to treat my countryman? I could have saved many martyrs. I feel a relentless sorrow.”


While doctors are suffering psychologically and many injured dying, others suffer from serious illness without any hope of a cure.


"Hepatitis, asthma, diarrhea and toxicity kill many people daily. The tragedy is compounded by malnutrition, which many inhabitants suffer from, especially children. We shouldn’t forget psychological illnesses which have found their way to the hearts and minds of all the people," an activist in the city says.


"We are afraid of the spread of epidemics and we are unable to fight them. We are also afraid of the serious shortage of doctors, as many of them were obliged to leave the country because of the unbearable circumstances,” he complains.


The deterioration in health is restricted to those in opposition area. Death and disease have found their way in to the prisons, too.


A Syrian human rights organization has recently warned of the deterioration of conditions in Aleppo Central Prison due to overcrowding and an extreme shortage of medicine and food.


The organization estimated 100 deaths in the prison in April alone. It asked the Red Crescent and other humanitarian organizations to urgently intervene to allow medicine and food to the prisoners and to secure water supply.


It is worth noting that the protection and treatment of wounded people, sick and captives in conflict zones is enshrined in international law under the Geneva Convention. The convention also states that it is not permitted to attack any mobile o fixed medical aid units – in contrast, they should always be respected and protected.


The Geneva Convention established the Red Crescent as a neutral organization to treat wounded people and prisoners. But this convention is not taken into consideration in Syria today, rather, it looks like a delusion given the daily violations of Syrian human rights all over the country.


Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer


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