FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Children in Syria Bear the Brunt of War

by CESAR CHELALA

One of the saddest things in the world today, ravaged by brutal wars, is a child, looking nowhere, as if asking the viewer, “Why are you doing this to us? We are only children.” This thought came to my mind as I read a report of the effects of the Syrian war on children, “A Devastating toll: The impact of three years of war on the health of Syria’s children,” prepared by Save the Children, a health and human rights organization working in over 120 countries.

The reported numbers of suffering children are overpowering: at least 1.2 million children have fled the country, and at least 4.3 million children are in urgent need of health and humanitarian assistance. More than 10,000 children have already lost their lives, and the numbers keep increasing.

Those children killed or maimed are the result not only of bullets and bombs: they are also dying from lack of basic medical care. What has happened is the result of the collapse of the whole health system in the country. Most children today in Syria are even unable to receive vaccination coverage for the most common vaccine-preventable diseases.

Before the conflict, Syria had a good health care system, with a child mortality rate of 15 per 1,000 births, down from 38 per 1,000 births in 1990. The country was on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal 4 – to reduce the child mortality rate from preventable diseases by two-thirds. The country also had almost universal coverage by skill birth attendants and a high rate of institutional delivery.

Today those gains, and hopes, are shattered, as is the country’s health care system. Across the country, 60 percent of hospitals and 38 percent of health facilities have been damaged or destroyed, and nearly half of doctors have fled the country. Aleppo, a city that should have 2,500 doctors, has now only 36. As a result, the remaining health facilities and health personnel struggle to cope with the large number of cases, many of whom remain unattended.

Most of the children arriving at health facilities come with injuries resulting from the war ravaging the country. Hospitals and clinics, however, do not have the personnel to take care of them. Many doctors, health personnel, and even patients have come under attack either on the way to health facilities or even inside of them. Many homes are being used as makeshift hospitals, and living rooms have been turned into operating theaters. In addition, production of essential drugs has fallen by 70 percent compared to previous levels.

The consequences of these shortcomings are mind-blowing for a person living in a country at peace: newborn babies dying in their incubators because of electricity cuts; children having their limbs amputated because of lack of equipment and drugs to treat them; children with chronic diseases being left unattended; children and adults are being made forcibly made unconscious by lack of anesthesia; parents arriving at a hospital or clinic having to hook up their children to intravenous drips because of lack of medical and paramedical staff.

Vaccine programs in the country have all but collapsed; while during peacetime vaccine coverage was 91 percent it is probably less than 50 today. Deadly diseases like measles and meningitis are on the rise. Even polio, which had been eradicated in the country in 1995, is now present in up to 80,000 children across the country, raising concerns about its international spreading.

In Syria today, children’s lives are at risk even before they are born. Pregnant women have poor antenatal, delivery and postnatal care. Ambulances are few and they are frequently stopped by roadblocks and checkpoints on the way to the hospital. As a result, unassisted births have increased dramatically, raising the possibilities for complications. Many women opt for cesarean sections, despite the risks provoked by lack of drugs and trained personnel.

In its report, “Under Siege – the devastating impact on children of three years of conflict in Syria,” UNICEF confirms the seriousness of the situation for children’s health and quality of life. According to the children’s agency, nearly three million children in Syria and neighboring countries are unable to go to school on a regular basis. Older children in Syria today are acting as teachers, caregivers and counselors for younger children.

Surviving children are forced to grow up too soon. And in the process they have become victims of abuse and exploitation. Those children needing specialized treatment are at particular risk. Many of their families intensively search for medicines and transfusion facilities.

Ten-year-old Fatima, now living as a refugee in Jordan, talked about her situation. “Sometimes I dream,” she said, I dream that I am carrying a dead man. And when I look at the children here, I feel like they have lost their hearts.” For children like them, fear has become a way of life. As UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake says, “For Syria’s children, the past three years have been the longest of their lives. Must they endure another year of suffering?”

Cesar Chelala, MD, PhD. is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
John Stauber
The Rise and Fall of Obamacare: Will the Inside Story Ever be Told?
Ted Rall
Ameri-Splaining
Michael J. Sainato
Mainstream Media Continues Absolving Itself From Clinton, Trump Election Failures
Ralph Nader – Mark Green
Divest or Face Impeachment: an Open Letter to Donald Trump
Gareth Porter
US Airstrikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Undermine Claim of “Mistake”
Martha Burke
What Trumponomics Means for Women
Ramzy Baroud
Fatah, Hold Your Applause: Palestinian Body Politic Rotten to the Core
Steve Horn
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill Exempting Fracking from Drinking Water Rules
Joe Ware
The Big Shift: Why Banks Need to Stop Investing Our Money Into Fossil Fuels
Juliana Barnet
On the Ground at Standing Rock
Franklin Lamb
Aleppo Update: An Inspiring Return to the Bombed Out National Museum
Steve Kelly
Hidden Harmony: on the Perfection of Forests
December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail