Saturday 10 December 2016

'If we're killed, who'll treat them?' ask last three children's doctors in Aleppo

Josie Ensor in Beirut

Published 19/11/2016 | 02:30

Injured boys react at a field hospital after airstrikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo
Injured boys react at a field hospital after airstrikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo

As Dr Hatem drove to work at Bayan children's hospital in east Aleppo on Wednesday he saw a jet flying in the skies above. He stopped his car, not wanting to be a moving target for one of its strikes.

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From where he was waiting he watched helplessly on as a barrel bomb fell next to the hospital. Fearing more would follow, the medical director quickly ran into the building and ordered his staff to take the patients down to the basement.

"The noise of the babies crying and the explosions down there was incredible," said Dr Hatem, who does not give his full name to protect his family. "We tried to help the parents calm down, pleading with them to not leave the hospital and stay underground. We told them: 'Staying here can save your life.'"

As he sat crouched in the dark with two colleagues - the three of them making up the only remaining paediatricians of opposition-held east Aleppo - he wondered what would happen if they did not make it out alive.

"Between us we serve over 90,000 children who remain trapped in the city. We thought: what if we are all killed here today, in this basement? Who will treat the children in the city? What will happen to them?"

Over the course of the next two hours 20 barrel bombs were dropped around the hospital. Bayan was put out of service by the attacks, but those hiding in the basement miraculously survived.

Dr Hatem had hoped to reopen yesterday but the hospital was bombed again.

It has been a deadly few days in eastern Aleppo.

There have been more than 13 such attacks on medical facilities across northern Syria since the latest government offensive began on Tuesday - approximately one every nine hours.

More than 100 have been killed in the renewed bombing, according to White Helmets civil defence rescuers. Yesterday morning what was believed to be a chlorine bomb was dropped on the Hanano neighbourhood, killing at least five people and injuring scores more.

Ibrahim al-Haj, a member of the White Helmets, said the city was a "mess." The group of first responders said they were struggling to put out fires set off by the air strikes in at least 10 different areas of eastern Aleppo. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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