Voices from Eastern Ghouta: 'They will all die, one by one'

Premature twin boys born into chaos. An oncologist without medicine to treat her cancer patients. And a mother's last...

Posted: Feb 22, 2018 1:47 PM
Updated: Feb 22, 2018 1:47 PM

Premature twin boys born into chaos. An oncologist without medicine to treat her cancer patients. And a mother's last wish -- for her children not to die hungry.

These are just a few stories from activists at the Ghouta Media Center in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held enclave outside Damascus that has been besieged by the Syrian regime for years.

At least 260 people were killed and 500 injured in a dramatic uptick in the bombardment this week, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said Wednesday. Other reports put the death toll above 300.

Nearly 400,000 people remain trapped in Eastern Ghouta, many of them in desperate need of humanitarian aid. As bombing has intensified in recent days, families have retreated underground, to makeshift shelters and remaining hospitals.

But without basic medical supplies, limited food and water, they're running out of options.

Born into this: Incubators underground

Mohammad and Ammar were born in besieged Eastern Ghouta -- their first cries drowned out by the roar of planes overhead, and punctuated by ceaseless explosions.

Their father, Nabil Al Ashkar, reads through his sons' medical records. Born premature, the babies were in the last remaining facility with incubators, according to the Ghouta Media Center. The facility has had to go underground because so many hospitals have been targeted.

The boys' growth has slowed since they were removed from the incubators to make way for other babies. "We have only eight incubators and one intensive care room. Sometimes we put children on chairs," said nurse Reem Abu Ahmad.

"There is so much pressure. Every day more kids are arriving... but they are barely surviving," Abu Ahmad said.

Dying wish: A full stomach

Maya is stuck in Eastern Ghouta, watching as her two handicapped children go hungry. The price of staple foods, like bread, means even basic supplies are out of reach.

Unable to feed her family, and waiting for an end she says seems inevitable, Maya has one wish: that when death comes for them, they have the comfort of a full stomach.

"I am most afraid of hunger because that is what is making my kids sick right now... the airstrikes are second. God knows what will happen next. I am really afraid for my children. My only wish is for them to have what they need," Maya said.

Her eldest, 11, picks through trash to find plastic to burn for warmth.

"I have nothing to give my children," Sami, their father, said.

Waiting to die: Ghouta's chronically ill

Death has become a routine matter amid endless airstrikes.

But sudden death isn't what is on Dr. Wassem Mohammad's mind. It's the slow wasting away of her patients as supplies have been drained and not replaced.

"I have 1,288 patients, 37 have died due to a lack of medicine already. All of my patients are under danger," said Mohammad, the last remaining oncologist in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

When a young boy diagnosed with lymphoma came into the medical facility for treatment, Mohammad had nothing to give him. None of the medicine is left.

"They will all die, one by one, unless the siege ends," she said.

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