SYRIA’s shattered health system leaves health workers no choice but to engage in brutal medical practices and perform unnecessary amputations on children because hospitals don’t have the proper equipment to treat them, Save the Children says in a new report.
The report, ‘A Devastating Toll: the Impact of Three Years of War on the Health of Syria’s Children’, sheds light on a broken health system and its consequences: children dying from war related injuries but also from diseases that would previously either have been treatable or prevented.
The report finds:
– Children having limbs amputated because clinics don’t have necessary equipment for appropriate treatment
– Newborn babies dying in their incubators during power cuts
– In some cases, patients opting to be knocked out with metal bars for lack of anaesthesia
– Patients undergoing potentially deadly person-to-person blood transfusions
Australian aid veteran Roger Hearn is the Middle East director for Save the Children. He used to live in Syria, leaving nine months after the uprising.
He says Syria’s health system has been shattered and children are enduring barbaric conditions.
“Across Syria almost half of all doctors have fled to neighbouring countries. In Aleppo, a city of 2.3 million people, roughly the same size as Brisbane, just 36 doctors remain where there should be at least 2,500. The desperate measures to which medical personnel are resorting to keep children alive are increasingly harrowing.”
One doctor working inside Syria told Save the Children: “Every day we have injured children suffering from critical burns and fractures, they need to have complicated operations but in this small hospital we don’t have the capacity. In some cases we have to cut their limbs off to try to save their lives – because if we don’t they will bleed to death.”
The report also documents the re-emergence of deadly and disfiguring diseases such as polio and measles, which can permanently maim, paralyse and even kill. Up to 80,000 children are likely to be infected by polio’s most aggressive form and could be unknowingly spreading the disease.
The majority of illnesses affecting children right now inside Syria are treatable and mostly preventable within a functioning health system. This includes measles, diarrhoea, and respiratory illnesses, which are all among the most deadly diseases worldwide for children aged under five.
As one measure of how far Syria’s health systems have fallen, in 2010, a total of 26 measles cases were reported in the whole of Syria for the entire year. In the first week of 2014, 84 cases were recorded in children aged under five in northern Syria alone.
Two hundred thousand Syrians have died of treatable chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma and diabetes in the last three years – double the number killed by violence. It is probable that many thousands of these were children. No longer able to buy medication or access regular medical care, everyday conditions are now fatal.
Across Syria, 60 per cent of hospitals are damaged or destroyed, while many health workers and medical staff have been killed, imprisoned, or have fled the country altogether.
Save the Children calls for the United Nations Security Council’s unanimous resolution on humanitarian access to be implemented immediately, and for children and their families to be given access now to vaccines, food, water, medicines and other life-saving assistance, wherever it is needed.
Source: Save the Children