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The indescribable hell that is Aleppo is becoming a memory which will never fade for some.  6 weeks of relentless barrel bombs devastated the east of the city.  These bombs were mixed with chlorine forcing children out of cellars into the open where they were shredded by mortars and artillery fire.  We will probably never know the full human cost.

The eminent war surgeon Dr David Nott, along with myself and the team at Doctors Under Fire have been negotiating for the last 4 weeks to get a group of 500 children out of Aleppo.  We spoke to Russian diplomats pleading for their safe passage. David spoke to Russian Ambassadors and even rang Assad’s office over 100 times to get safe passage.  We spoke to MPs and Ministers in the British Parliament to use their very considerable diplomacy skills to enable the ceasefire.

Eventually two weeks ago the much-publicised ceasefire began and our sister charity UOSSM loaded the children into buses and ambulances and took them through the cross over point at Kan al Assal and into Idlib Province.  From there they travelled the 20 kms to the UOSSM main hospital at Bab Al Hawa near the Syrian border about 10kms from the Turkish crossing point at Ryhanli.

These first evacuees included the 500 children and also 47 orphans who had pleaded via the media to be rescued.  Their faces, in the main were gaunt, haunted with the 1,000 yard stare of those who have seen too much.  The head psychiatrist at UOSSM recently told me that 75% of children in Syria have PTSD and in 50% of cases it manifests itself in them being incontinent.

The evacuations then stopped until Monday leaving thousands to sleep outside in freezing temperatures and snow.  Heartbreakingly, 4 babies succumbed to the temperatures and died in the night.

Many hundreds of injured civilians have now reached Bab Al Hawa hospital.  Most are in a shocking state, malnourished, anemic, some with horrendous blast injuries.  But our doctors are getting to work and patching them up as best they can.  Many thousands of civilians have also been evacuated, and are being taken to refugee camps near the Syrian border or to Idlib city.

The international community has hitherto failed these people and the children in particular.  We must press to extend the ceasefire and create safe havens in NW Syria for those who have survived the Armageddon which has been Aleppo this winter and the other towns now under attack.

Notwithstanding this depressing narrative, there are a glimmers of hope, with the UN monitors now on the ground in Aleppo, to hopefully stop the atrocities which have undoubtedly happening there, and also now 500 children who for 14 nights have slept without the fear of never seeing the next dawn, and with their bellies full for the first time in many months.

Britain with its massive humanitarian budget and skill in this area, should now get more involved.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon
Director Doctors Under Fire


8 Comments on "The Children Of East Aleppo"

  1. ” Britain with its massive humanitarian budget and skill in this area, should now get more involved” Sorry but Britain needs to help the sick, elderly & orphaned in the UK & not be the piggy bank of the Arabs whenever they slaughter each other without mercy. I don’t see any Saudi, Qatari or UAE willingness to take in their own Sunni brethren & they have yet to resettle the so called Palestinians after they ordered them to flee in 1948 & 1967 so that the Arab armies could better slaughter the Jews. Western involvement in any shape or form including humanitarian aid merely prolongs the Syrian conflict & prevents a settlement between the parties.

  2. It must be the New Year, either that or the sausage I had for lunch. I actually find myself agreeing with a post from mahatmacoatmabag and it’s a very strange feeling.

    The UK along with the rest of the Western world have been meddling in the Middle East for a century and the place is a mess. Now we have Arab fighting Arab, Muslim fighting Muslim, and the Gulf states are doing nothing. Let them sort this one out themselves and we’ll deal with the eventual winners when the dust settles.

  3. Those 500 kids who have been sleeping without fear and with full bellies for the past 14 nights could have been sleeping without fear and with full bellies for the past few months if the rebels had surrendered or brokered a deal to leave Aleppo when they were surrounded, they care about civilians as much as Assad does. I also agree with with Mahatma and Peter, and would suspect most people do.

  4. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon | 5th January 2017 at 10:55 am | Reply

    This is a pretty sad reflection on where we are today on Syria. Our disengagement over chemical weapon redlines on 21 Aug 13 has now made them the norm in Syria & Iraq. Today Assad has dropped 4 chlorine barrel bombs on Wadi Bardeh and Security Minister Ben Wallace has warned of chemical attack by IS in the UK this week. Perhaps only then we may act? Hospitals and children were directly targeted in East Aleppo by Russia and Syrian Regime. David and I have seen this at first hand and hence could and cannot standby and do nothing, whatever our Govts might and might not be doing. The children are the future of Syria, at the moment they are not fighters or terrorists.

  5. Tanya Rochetti | 9th January 2017 at 8:32 pm | Reply

    These children are indeed the future of Syria. Just as children, all over the globe, are the future of our world.

    If your neighbor’s child were standing outside your door, in the freezing cold, would you not open your door? Surely, if that child appeared lost, scared and even hungry, you would not hesitate to bring that child in out of the cold. Maybe you don’t know your neighbors or recognize the child. But you do recognize the urgency of that child’s need, so you don’t wait for the “authorities” to come to the child’s rescue. You know you have the personal power to make a difference, so you invite the child in to the comfort and safety of your home. Perhaps even offer the child something dry and warm to wear and a little food and drink. Such simple, basic necessities. Things so many of us seem to take for granted.

    Dr. David Nott has opened the door to this very cold reality. And if his home were as big as his heart and his pockets as deep as his love for these children of Aleppo, he would surely not need our help. This crisis is about so much more than opening our purses or emptying our pockets to help. It is about opening our eyes to see and ears to hear this terrible truth. And ultimately, opening our hearts to feel this very urgent need. These children may not be at your doorstep or mine, but they are the children of our neighbors, nonetheless. Surely, you would help a neighbor in need.

    Children should not be made to suffer the consequences of poor – and especially, inhumane – policies and decisions made by people in “power”. As individuals, we each hold our own personal power. We, as individuals, do have the ability to make a difference in the lives of these children. Never underestimate your talents and resources …. your just might surprise yourself!

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead, American Anthropologist (1901-1978)

    Flex your muscle….. the heart is the best place to start!

    • Hello Tanya, please pass on to Tim Marshall your address so you can host some 12 year old 6ft tall bearded Syrian boys in your own home . BTW they are not your neighbours children unless you happen to be living in Beirut, Amman, Ankara or Baghdad & its Western NGO’s / Charities that are funded by the tax payer by way of Govt. subsidies or charity donations that are one of the stumbling blocks in the sides reaching a peace agreement since the rebel / terrorist factions rely on the money & food donations to feed themselves & families to prolong the conflict. So either put up or shut up, the rest of us are sick of bleeding heart liberal slogans & wasting money on inter-Arab conflicts in the Mid-East & North Africa.

      • Some of the recent comments have become abusive, overly sarcastic, unpleasant, and the sort of thing found on a million and one websites where inadequates spout bile because they are incapable of keeping a civil tongue in their head and civil fingers on their keyboards. This is not one of those sites, nor is it one which only cares about the number of clicks. So, abuse will not be posted, and serial abuse will be blocked. If you can’t be respectful – click off.

  6. Tanya Rochetti | 10th January 2017 at 5:01 pm | Reply

    Dearest mahatmacoatmabag…. thank you for your response. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify, to you, and others who perhaps miss the jest of my comments. My plea is that we simply recognize the urgency of the need of the CHILDREN of Aleppo. Certainly, it would be an awesome and challenging task to undo all that has been done to the young boys, once they reach an age where they get to be 6ft tall bearded MEN. Particularly if they have received more rejection than any sense of caring. And as for the young girls, they too will likely grow up to be angry young women who give birth to children raised with their angst. So for those who do not share my simple empathy, perhaps you will consider the consequences. The absence of a positive action will surely result in more negative action in the not-too-distant future. I do not consider myself a “bleeding-heart liberal”; in fact I have a greater tendency to lean toward the conservative. But when it comes to matters of the heart, I will always find the time and energy to “put up”. The heart is a most amazing muscle – the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. And as long as there are innocents without a voice, I will unlikely agree to “shut up”. Our words and actions carry great weight. It takes no more energy to speak and act in a positive light. In fact, negative words and actions will always take their toll on the physical body, in the form of dis-ease. And, BTW, though thousands of miles may separate us from one another, we are all neighbors. We live on a very small planet in a very large Universe.

    If each of us would agree to use our words and actions to create peace in our own little piece of the world, perhaps we would live to see World Peace. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful legacy to leave for the children of today’s CHILDREN of ALEPPO, and ALL the children of the children of our neighbors, near and far?

    On a personal note, I sincerely wish you and yours all the treasures no amount of money can buy… PEACE, LOVE & JOY.

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