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Middle east

Video transplants childhood horror of Syrian war to London

© Save the Children

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-10

A devastating video depicting the effect of war on children released by British NGO Save the Children has gone viral ahead of a report, published Monday by the charity, which paints a dire picture of Syria’s collapsing healthcare system.

Posted last Wednesday, the video transplants the horror of the Syrian conflict to London, telling the story of a care-free childhood ripped apart by war in daily snapshots over the course of a year.

With the slogan “Just because it isn’t happening here, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening”, the video is an attempt to shock people into action after three years of bloody civil war in Syria, which has left more than a million Syrian children growing up in refugee camps.

Monday’s report by Save the Children into the effect of the conflict on children’s’ health is equally chilling.

It paints a picture of newborns freezing to death in hospital incubators, doctors cutting off limbs to stop patients from bleeding to death and surging cases of polio.

The report said some 60 percent of Syria's hospitals have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the three-year-old conflict while nearly half the country’s doctors have fled the country.

More than 140,000 people have died in the war, which started as a peaceful protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad and degenerated into civil conflict fuelled by regional and international rivalries.

Patients knocked unconscious ‘with metal bars’

In its report, Save the Children described the fallout from the collapse of the medical system as "horrific," as remaining hospitals and medical staff struggle to treat hundreds of thousands of people wounded by the fighting.

"Syria's health system is now in such disarray that we have heard reports of doctors using old clothes for bandages and patients opting to be knocked unconscious with metal bars, because there are no anaesthetics," the report said.

"The lack of clean water means sterilisation for bandages is nearly impossible, causing the threat of infection and possible death."

Children's limbs have been amputated because clinics did not have the equipment to treat their wounds, it said. Newborns have died in incubators because of power cuts and parents have administered intravenous drips to their children because there was not enough medical staff to help them.

Patients have died from receiving wrong blood types, and transfusions have in some places been performed directly between people because of a lack of power, according to the report.

The report quoted the Syrian American Medical Society as estimating that, since the start of the conflict, 200,000 Syrians had died from chronic illnesses because of a lack of access to treatment and drugs.

Polio infects up to 80,000 children

Syria's vaccination coverage has also been hit hard. Before the war, coverage was 91 percent, but fell to 68 percent just a year after the conflict's start, and is probably much lower now, the report said.

Measles and meningitis have spread, and polio - which the report said was eradicated across Syria in 1995 - has now infected up to 80,000 children, it added.

"Children born after 2010 have not been vaccinated for two years. There have been heavy restrictions in access to vaccines and health workers have not been able to reach children in need."

Factors including overcrowding and poor living conditions, water and sanitation have meant skin diseases including leishmaniasis - a parasitic disease caused by the bite of the sandfly - have increased.

There were fewer than 3,000 cases before the war, and now there are more than 100,000.

Save the Children called for humanitarian groups to be given freedom of access to all areas and aid to be allowed across conflict lines, after ceasefires if necessary.

"Immediate investment in, and access to, child-focused health services is needed to ensure that children are not dying from preventable and treatable injuries and illnesses," it said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-10

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