In the besieged East Ghouta area near Damascus, Syria, intense bombing has resulted in one of the bloodiest months since the conflict began. Here, a Syrian medical practitioner supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) describes the situation. He is currently serving as director and human resources manager of a makeshift hospital, in addition to acting as a surgeon and senior doctor. For his security, he has requested to remain anonymous.
Where the Rest of the World Failed, a Sandstorm Has Temporarily Halted the Violence
“Everyone should know the humanitarian situation in the East Ghouta besieged areas now. In my community, we’ve been under siege for two years. Prices are increasing. Virtually no goods or medicine are coming in. Health services are deteriorating. In this past month of August we’ve been seeing an increase of violence. Increased terrifying air strikes, massacres after massacres. Every three days it feels like a massacre has happened. We’ve only had a moment’s respite thanks to a recent sandstorm. Imagine, the world hasn’t stopped the violence here, but a sand storm did . . .
What’s been happening is a lot of airstrikes, and a lot of ‘double-tapping’, where there is a strike, a moment’s pause, and then another strike in the same place. This has killed our ambulance drivers, people trying to save the injured, and has killed those who were injured in the first strike.
The injuries that are coming in have meant an increase of amputations. We are sometimes forced to amputate because of our lack of resources and because of the type of wounds. One of my patients was a child whose arm was ripped off from a strike.”
August: "The Worst I've Seen"
“Honestly, for East Ghouta, August was the worst we’ve seen medically. Hundreds of injured are coming in. Sometimes we have to go two or three days without sleeping. This month is incomparable to before. It is the worst I’ve seen.
We are trying our best. We are trying to save lives and that’s what is keeping us going. We cannot do anything about the siege—it is what it is, and we are just struggling to survive. Of course, I have to hang onto hope. There is always hope.”
"Anyone Who Isn't Injured or Dead Can Count Themselves Lucky"
“There is much fear and depression in our community. You see it everywhere. Whenever there is a shelling or the sound of a plane, everyone desperately rushes home or to a shelter. The sound of a plane in the sky is terrifying. It is hard to explain how the situation is on the ground. You have to see it with your own eyes to understand, and even then it is unbelievable. We have seen huge numbers of injured over the past month; in these circumstances anyone who isn’t injured or dead can count themselves lucky.”
The Madness of This Crisis
“Medically, we’ve had to become used to the situation, so we do things like rationing of medicine. Rationing has become an important part of our work. We have no choice, so we try to make do with what we have.
There are too many patients, too many stories. But one patient shows the madness of this crisis—a child—who I will never forget until I die: he had injuries all over his face, his arms, his legs, and yet he was laughing! Just laughing and laughing. Children usually are afraid of our injections and needles, but he was not. He just laughed, laughed at everything.”
Everyone should know what is happening here. Enough death and siege. Enough blood and misery in East Ghouta and the rest of Syria. Too many people are dying every day, and it seems the world is becoming immune to our suffering. Enough."