• Stories from Syria

     

    Safety and Security Manager at UOSSM

    Ahmet AlDbis is the safety and security manager at the UOSSM (Union des Organisations de Secours et Soins Médicaux). He tells us about the risks facing health services in the north of Syria and how organized trainings and manuals can help in reducing these risks.

     

     

    Q1: Tell us about something that made you happy recently.

    from 00:00min

     

    The thing that made me happy recently, is from my recent visit to the medical centres at to the frontline. Of course, the staff in those centres have been trained on safety and security measures, and they did trainings on how to deal with the different hazards such as bombardment and interfering with the humanitarian work. The trainings took place two months before my visit.

     

    During that visit, I noticed a very good level of applying humanitarian principles, I noticed also many emergency plans that were put in place and explained to all staff. The crews now know what to do during clashes and what to do during the bombardment. This makes us really happy because those people now have ways of reducing the risks associated with their work. This will help them in their lives and will protect them, will protect the medical facilities and will protect the continuity and existence of medical services.

    Q2: How do you feel when you go to work in the health centre/ambulance?

    from 01:12min

     

    On my way to work and during field visits, I feel the danger and I feel afraid because we are working in one of the most dangerous environments in the world. There are different risks, the biggest one is the risk of bombardment with all sorts of weapons. There is also the risk of clashes which can be between the armed militias which control the north of Syria. There is also the risk of abduction, assassination or direct killing and the risk of explosives.

     

    These feelings disappear when we prioritize serving people and saving lives. They disappear when we focus on the paramount issue which is the humanitarian principle of saving the lives of people who need saving and providing them with the service and care they need.

     

    Q3: Do you feel safe at work in the health centre/hospital or ambulance? why?

    from 02:12min

     

    I previously worked in medical centres, in hospitals, and in ambulances. Later on, my work was all about visiting these medical centres, hospitals and ambulances to make sure that they are applying safety and security principles during their work. Of course, during my visits and while being with them, I don't feel ultimate safety but rather relative safety.

     

    Relative safety is related to risk indicators such as if the area is being bombarded or not, if the area is nearby any regional borders that will make it very difficult to be targeted or not, if the infrastructure of the facility is prepared to protect us and the people inside or not, if there emergency or evacuation plans or not, if the crews are ready to help each other and to provide first aid and evacuation support or not, if there are equipped vehicles to help in the evacuation process or not. All these indicators affect our feelings of safety during work which is, as I said before, relative safety and not ultimate safety.

    Q4: What has changed at your work since the start of the conflict?

    from 03:27min

     

    Many things changed during the last seven or eight years, especially at the security front. The risks change all the time, they started by arresting the humanitarian workers. Then they became all about targeting health workers by sniper bullets, shelling and bombardment during evacuation operations. Then they became about fighter jets’ deliberate targeting of hospitals and health centres in a systematic manner to a degree that health workers feel more at risk when inside a health facility than when they are in a military or security base because hospitals were the places most likely to be targeted. This is what happened in Eastern Aleppo, the same in Idleb, north Hama, Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere.

     

    These facilities were the most targeted. The types of weapons changes as well. It changed into tactical and weapons of massive destruction, the use of sarin and accurate weapons which penetrate fortifications. This affected the level of risks inside the medical facilities which changes with the changes in the type of weapons. This increased the dangers that humanitarian workers experience and face. What has not changed is the principle reason that kept health workers going. What kept them going is not the financial compensation they get but their principle of helping people in need which is the core of humanitarian work. The core of humanitarian work is to continue providing the services in all sorts of environments and conditions.

  • A Nurse (ممرض)

    This storyteller is a nurse from Aleppo, and he tells us what it means and feels to be one of the last medical workers to be forcibly displaced from Eastern Aleppo before the Syrian regime took back control in 2016.

     

     

    Q1: Tell us about something that made you happy recently.

    from 00:00min

     

    Helping people under siege makes you realize the importance of health services. Of course, you can feel its importance in normal days, but it was crucial during the last days of Aleppo siege due to the lack of human resources after the forced displacement. Medical staff left in the first wave of people. They gave up their duty, some of them and not all, so there was a huge shortage of medical staff.

     

     

    One time, a Urologist, his name was Dr. Ahmed Yasin, had to do a c-section to one woman because there was no gynaecologist in the besieged areas. The only hospital left was Al- Qudes Hospital, and it was destroyed except for a few rooms and the basement without sufficient medical equipment. This at least makes me feel proud because I was one of the latest people to leave and I managed to serve the people of my city. This makes me feel very proud. I hope that the service we provided was the right thing to do, inchallah .

     

    Q2: How do you feel when you go to work in the health centre/ambulance?

    from 01:00min

     

    This depends on the nature of work. When I was working in the ambulance, I worked as a first aider with UOSSM. I used to be afraid because the fighter jets will be always in the sky. You could lose your life at any moment! and we lost five colleagues who worked with us. Unfortunately, we spent most of our time in fear.

     

    On the other hand, when you work in a medical centre, you occasionally feel proud of providing good health service as much as you can. You could mix with patients and their carers, and this will make you feel really worthy as a human. You could communicate with them very well and to help them as much as you can. However, you will feel frustrated and useless for not being able to help them as much as they need.


     

    Q3: Do you feel safe at work in the health centre/hospital or ambulance? why?

    from 01:49min

     

    Did we feel safe in health facilities? to a certain extent yes. But in hospitals, unfortunately, one can only feel safe for a few days because of the continuous and repeated targeting of health facilities and hospitals. This made us feel really afraid. Hospitals are being regularly targeted. Especially the hospitals that treat injured civilians and war wounded.

     

    Q4: What has changed at your work since the start of the conflict?

    from 02:21min

     

    What changed in my life and work since the beginning of the war is that I had to study nursing in the opposition areas so I could do my job as a nurse. This is so different from what I had been studying before the war.

     

    Life changed so much as well. I lost so many people including close relatives and others who were arrested. In addition to that, most of my family and relatives left because they were afraid to die or because they lost a dear person and they didn't want to lose more. Unfortunately, after we were forcibly displaced from Aleppo, we now feel more alienated because we cannot go back to our areas. Of course, this means either getting killed or getting arrested.

     

    A doctor during the war (طبيبة في ظل الحرب)

    This storyteller is a paediatrician in Afrin area. She speaks about her choice not to leave Syria so she can serve the community in need, and about her attachment to her patients and to her medical work.

     

     

    Q1: How did the conflict change your life? What did you lose? What did you gain?

    from 00:00min

     

    I lost my clinic. I was the director of a medical centre. Of course, during the war, the clinic was bombed so I left it, and I was displaced, but it wasn't only me, many others in the community were forced to flee for few days. For me, what pulled me back is the fact that I am a doctor, I cannot leave because people might need me. I expected the shortage of medical staff, and I was right...

     

    I came back after the displacement, I came back to this area and I could count the medical staff on my fingers! there were very few of them as I had expected. So I never regretted my return. I went back to save the people who need me, and to serve the massive number of displaced in the area with very few medical personnel.

     

    I was very pleased with my return where I won my people’s hearts, there were so many people in need and I was there for them. I served them when many of them fell ill because of the displacement and what they experienced on the roads and under the shelling such as Hepatitis and the fear they felt.

    Everything that they went through before arriving in this area was as I expected. Thanks to God, I was here to serve them and I managed to win their hearts. I also got to learn about many new different diseases that I treated, endemics and rare diseases. I had a case of high blood cholesterol in an eighteen months old child! this is very rare! I managed to improve my professional skills and to control the epidemic.

     

    Q2: What makes you feel unsafe in the health centre / the hospital / the ambulance and why?

    from 03:00min

     

    I will speak not only about my feelings but about those of all the medical staff here. Whenever we leave to work, we never know when a mine could explode, which car will detonate, and we never know if there will be a fire exchange. So many times, we ran, or hid in a building's entrance, we still cannot walk on the main roads but we always use the side roads to avoid those situations. It happened and continues to happen, and we continue to hide from it! We are always attentive to save ourselves but always worried and anxious until we arrive at the medical centre where there is relative safety. If the medical centre is not safe, we will never be able to work. But outside the Centre, there is a lot of anxiety and worry. Inside the Centre and during work, we try to put all of this aside and to focus on serving and saving the patients.

     

    Q3: Tell us about a memory that you will always remember from the conflict

    from 04:21min

     

    When health organizations started operating and we started our work with them, we found weapons everywhere. Weapons are so scary! Everyone in the street is armed and doctors, even other people, we find it scary.

     

    I was on my way to work and I found a man bleeding in his car. His legs were dangling and bleeding! he had been shot in his legs and he was heavily bleeding. I was walking in the street and I was so scared to talk to anyone, I didn't know anyone! but I got the feeling that it is not fair that an eighteen years old is bleeding like that! he might faint! at the time, we had no blood banks in the whole area!

    The situation was so bad! so as a doctor, my first thought was that if he continues to bleed like this, he will die with his legs like this! So despite my fear and everything, I put myself together and went to him.

    I asked him if he wanted to come to our medical centre to change his bandage and to get emergency care. He came to us and we saved him, we gave him the treatment and advised him to raise his legs to reduce the bleeding. We provided first aid and gave him everything he needed.

     

    Q4: What kept you going in your work despite the conflict and the daily danger?

    from 06:21min

     

    My attachment to my work in the clinic, and my attachment to my patients who come here, and the cases that I follow-up on, made me strongly attached to my work. Especially as a paediatrician in Afrin area, there are very few of us here.

     

    The financial difficulty also pushes people to come to me, so many people are who are in need of treatment cannot afford it. They have nothing! they don't even have their daily food to afford treatment and medical check-ups. I am very pleased to be here to serve those people in need. I am attached to them, to their appointments, to their follow-up, to whenever they come. This made me attached to my work. If I leave the clinic even for one single day, I feel so guilty! why? because they are in need. They come from their faraway villages, many kilometers away. They wouldn't have come unless they really need to.

     

    I just hope that I am fulfilling my role and, inshallah, things will get better. I will never leave my patients, especially during these times, because they need me and I won their hearts. I served them and prevented any epidemics or environmental pollution to happen in this area.

    A dark tunnel (نفق مجهول)

    This storyteller is an anaesthetic technician in Afrin area. She recalls her memories from the bombardment on Aleppo University in 2013 where many medical students were killed, and she describes the security challenges imposed by the armed groups on their work.

     

     

    Q1: How did the conflict change your life? What did you lose? What did you gain?

    from 00:00min

     

    The war changed our lives in so many aspects. The first one is our study, it prolonged our studies. Instead of sitting for the exams in one semester, now we need to do it after two or three semesters.

     

    We cannot see our families as much as we use to before. In the past, we used to arrive in Aleppo in half an hour. Now we need six hours and sometimes sixteen hours to get there. So many problems happened on the roads, many people were killed on the roads, so we got scared and now we travel once every several months.

     

    I didn't lose much in this war, the only thing is that I lost one of my friends at the university. He joined the free Syrian army. He became a martyr after he joined the armed groups. What I gained is my self-confidence and how to make new good friends, and how to distinguish between bad and good people.

     

    Q2: What makes you feel unsafe in the health centre / the hospital / the ambulance and why?

    from 01:01min

     

    The thing that makes us feel unsafe when we go to the Centre or to work is the armed groups in Afrin. There are so many of them.

     

    There is a car that comes to take us to work, but we don't need to take it and sometimes we want to walk to work. Sometimes, a fire exchange starts while we are walking, and other times an explosion takes place. We never know where they put the bomb, maybe next to the garbage bin or next to a car! we walk everywhere in the street, and the street has many garbage bins and cars besides other objects. We could be hit by a random bullet, so generally, Afrin is not safe at all. You will need to create your own safety because there is none here.

    After we arrive in the medical centre, the armed groups are also the reasons for feeling unsafe. They come and register their names by force. They push their way into the clinic before everyone else, and they push their way to the management straight away so they can jump the queues. They do not respect queues nor order. They do not respect people who are more educated than them, nor they respect intellectuals when they speak, they have no respect for that. Many of them take others' turns.

     

    Just because they have weapons in their hands and because they are members of the armed groups, their egos become enormous. They make people feel inferior and they feel superior to everyone else.

     

    Q3: Tell us about a memory that you will always remember from the conflict

    from 02:48min

     

    I will never forget the explosion in the university when a fighter jet bombarded the university. We were twelve people, seven girls, and five guys and we were going to AlAshrafiyeh. The rocket fell ten meters from us! We froze in our places at the beginning... we didn’t know what to do... and I only remember that someone pushed me from the back and told me to run.

     

    At first, we didn’t believe this was happening and we still wanted to go and check on our friends... but then they told us to run and that we could come back later to find our friends... Once we ran! Thanks to God we did! The second rocket landed where we just had been standing... This affected us a lot.

     

    We came back after one hour to the University hospital, and we started to gather the body pieces .. It was very ugly. I am an anaesthetic technician and I work in ER and intensive care. When I worked in intensive care, the university beds were not enough, so we started to put an elderly man and a young kid on the two different sides of the bed to save space. We started to do Thoracentesison the floor. It was very ugly.

     

    The other terrible memory of the war was also the killing of one friend in the faculty. We had been friends for two years but he joined the armed groups and got martyrdom in Aleppo, in Midan. He comes from Idlib from Jisr AlShogour. He left such a pain in us, May his soul rest in peace.

    Q4: What kept you going in your work despite the conflict and the daily danger?

    from 04:36min

     

    The first thing that keeps us doing what we do now is the dire living conditions. Everyone needs money to live because we cannot survive without it.

     

    My family is going through very difficult times because of the war situation in Afrin. We lost everything we had saved. After the war ended and Afrin had been liberated, I went there alone and even worked alone while my family remained in Jinderes (Aleppo city). I started to work to support them. I have three adult brothers, but they cannot leave the house because of the kidnapping risk, they could be kidnapped if they leave.

     

    Us the Girls, started to work to pay for the whole family, to pay for their expenses, and to continue in our field of education because there are so many people who need us. In April last year (2018), a decision was taken to close all the hospitals in Afrin. If hospitals close, where would the patients go?! where would they travel? where would a poor person whose life was destroyed by the war go? what would they do? to which medical centre or mosque can he go? is he going to become a beggar so he can afford to treat his son or daughter or sister? therefore, we needed to sacrifice our lives to keep the hospitals going and to treat the people who come to us.

     

    Above all of that, people here are extremely poor, financially, spiritually and in all aspects. They need psychosocial support to go to work. If they are not guided, they remain lost. They always need someone to tell them what to do and to guide them. Our people do not have direction! When a child arrives in the hospital, we need to tell the family in detail what to do! they are incapable of doing anything by themselves. Sometimes they cannot bring the child to the hospital without guidance!

     

    Besides, many hospitals closed at that time so we wanted to keep working so we can treat the people here. This is the core of our work at the end! it is a medical humanitarian mission. If we leave, people have nowhere to go. Mortality rate will become higher and more people and children will die.

  • The assassination of all forms of life (اغتيال لكل أشكال الحياة)

    This storyteller is a doctor who witnessed the bombardment of the hospitals where he worked and the death of many of his colleagues. He tells the story of displacement and hope for the future.

     

     

    Q1: Have you witnessed or heard about attacks against health facilities or workers during the last offence against the opposition areas?

    from 00:00min

     

    The shelling hit in proximity to the facility where I work, the damage was only material. However, the hospital in the neighbourhood where I lived in Qalaat AlMadiq was deliberately and directly targeted several times. Eventually, it was hit and the damage to the infrastructure and equipment was very bad. After that, the army invaded the city and the area where the hospital used to be and they continued the destruction and looting of the remaining equipment. Also, there was another medical centre in the city that I am talking about, Qalaat AlMadiq, where all the equipment and medications there were destroyed and looted. In Kefranbel, four hospitals were destroyed almost entirely. On the road between Qalaat AlMadiq and Kefranbel, there was another hospital, Ter M’ala maternity and paediatric hospital. It was destroyed by an explosive barrel. The targeting was generally systematic to everything in the medical sector.

     

    Q2: Could you tell us what were the consequences of these attacks on you and on civilians?

    from 01:14min

     

    In the city where I had been living until one month ago, the hospital was targeted by bombs. This led to damages in the infrastructure and equipment. of course, it had been operating only life-saving surgeries due to its repeated targeting. It was a maternity and paediatric hospital, but it had become impossible to do any delivery or cesarean sections or to put children in incubators.

    The shelling led to the reduction of the health services till it stopped completely when the hospital was hit and destroyed. After that, the area was raided and everything left from the medical sector was destroyed or looted. Even the hospital's ambulance was targeted and completely destroyed. In that hospital, I had a friend from school who worked as a cashier. He became a martyr when his car was hit by a missile while on the road. He had been working in the health sector for seven years! Also one month and a half ago, we had another colleague who worked with us in the health directorate. There was only two meters distance between my office and his. He was a pharmacist and he also became a martyr. Fifteen days ago, a third colleague got martyrdom as well. He worked in the ER and he was targeted by the shelling.

     

    Generally, all of this affected the medical services and it stopped us from rescuing whoever could have been rescued. Most of the equipment from the facilities close to where I worked were evacuated to the areas where people fed.

     

    Gradually, we are trying to restore the services using this equipment so we can resume serving people.

     

    Q3: How do attacks against health care affect displacement?

    from 03:05min

     

    At first, people had to bear the pain in fear of death if their illness required them to stay long periods in the health facility. It is well established now that health facilities are the first targets of bombardment and missiles, and even of explosive barrels.

     

    The work routine changed into operating only life-saving surgeries and referring most of the other cases to safer places in the north in fear of death or health deterioration or even psychological stress between patients. As the bombardment intensified, most people fed except for a few medical staff who remained to serve the remaining sporadic groups of people. They tried to follow safety and security instructions. However, as the bombardment intensified again and with the destruction of all aspects of life and institutions, displacement became the inescapable fate to whoever remained of the population first, and to the health workers second. Villages and cities were evacuated entirely in Hama countryside! including my city! rescuing people from death became very difficult. The hospital is able to treat patients but unable to protect them from missiles and explosive barrels! It was a systematic and forced displacement of the people all along the frontline with the Assad forces.

    And as I said, because hospitals were able to treat the patients but unable to protect them from missiles and barrels, displacement was even a bigger scale. It extended along hundreds of kilometers and included hundreds of thousands of people. People and health workers, or shall I say whoever remained of them, fed and left so many dreams and equipment behind. However, the priority was for the people to survive with their families and children.

     

    Q4: What are you going to do next? Do you have any plans for you and your family?

    from 04:46min

     

    What will I do? I will continue my work and duty toward my people as much as I can and as far as I can. An incident happened in 2015 when the medical centre where I worked was completely destroyed. Nevertheless, we continued!

     

    What I plan with the family? at first, we had only one plan: not to lose hope. Because it is not only me! My friends, colleagues and neighbours, all of them lost everything, their properties, homes, lands, even the memories they had in their homes. We agreed not to lose hope and to accept what happened to us and what we lost, in the hope that something might come back. We are rebuilding almost everything in our lives from scratch, even the little things, we are buying them again because we are convinced that even if we go back to our homes, whoever destroyed our lives will not have left anything for us because they are against life itself.

     

    Besides all of that, we have our biggest dream! which is to live the life we deserve not the life that is decided for us in a big or small prison.


    In ten days, my little girl whose photo is attached here will become one year old! she is the only person who currently smiles in the family! she has not realized the scale of the tragedy we live in. We will try to be just like her during these times, we will smile and ignore the scale of our tragedy. We lost a lot, but our loss remains small compared to the souls we lost. So the plan is to accept what happened and to try to make our reality better by helping each other and helping ourselves with the hope of getting our dreams one day.

     

     

     

    Unknown future (مستقبل مجهول)

    This storyteller is a medical coordinator of one of the health humanitarian organizations in the north of Syria. He is speaking about the displacement movement toward the north of Syria close to the Turkish borders, and about his dreams of immigrating for a better future to his family.

     

     

    Q1: Have you witnessed or heard about attacks against health facilities or workers during the last offence against the opposition areas?

    from 00:00min

     

    I work as the medical coordinator of one of the health organizations in the liberated north of Syria. Throughout my work, I haven't witnessed shelling of the centres that I managed myself, but I heard about so many health facilities that have been bombed in northern Hama countryside and southern Idlib countryside. More than twenty facilities were targeted, in addition to the high number of martyrs and of injuries from both civilians and health workers.

    Q2: Could you tell us what were the consequences of these attacks on you and on civilians?

    from 00:38min

     

    With regards to the human and material cost that the medical points suffered from, more than twenty medical facilities were put out of service. All the facilities run by Free Hama Health Directorate stopped working. More than fifty hospitals suspended their non-urgent surgeries and they are only operating life-threatening emergencies.


    Only twenty-five medical facilities are left in the liberated areas in Syria to provide medical services to the population. The number of martyrs is so high! more than ten health humanitarian workers were killed and more than one hundred were injured. The number of civilian martyrs is more than four hundred during the last month only.


    Besides all of that, our material losses are huge! more than twenty medical points were completely destroyed because of the shelling! in addition to the loss of medical equipment and medications. The suspension I mentioned earlier of the non-urgent operations, affected the quality of health provision in the liberated areas.


    There is a medical crisis! patients cannot find any hospitals to treat them because of the high number of injuries and the workload as a result of the bombardment.

    Q3: How do attacks against health care affect displacement?

    from 02:02min

     

    A huge displacement wave was caused by the bombardment of health facilities, from Hama northern countryside and southern Idlib countryside to the north of Syria toward the Turkish borders. This movement caused overcrowding near the borders, lack of medical services due to the increased demand, and the immigration of many health and humanitarian workers due to the constant shelling. We are under a lot of pressure due to the workload caused by the staff shortage and the lack of functioning medical facilities.

     

    Q4: What are you going to do next? Do you have any plans for you and your family?

    from 02:42min

     

    For me to be honest, I recently tried to enter Turkey with my family because the future is unknown here. The future of our children is in danger. There is no education, the facilities are almost completely destroyed in my area. I come from Hama and we were recently forced to flee and to be displaced, but my children’s future is the most important for me.

     

    To be honest, my plan is to migrate to Turkey or to Europe even if I risk my life by being smuggled into Turkey or in the sea to Europe. I prefer to risk my life than staying with the dangers of bombardment or being captured by the regime forces as the shelling continues.

    The story of a hospital during the war in northern Hama countryside

    (قصة مشفى في ظل الحرب في ريف حماه الشمالي)

    This storyteller is a surgeon and the director of AlSham Central Hospital in Kefranbel, he tells the story of repeated shelling that targeted the hospital where he works.

     

     

    Q1: Have you witnessed or heard about attacks against health facilities or workers during the last offence against the opposition areas?

    from 00:00min

     

    Yes, the hospital where I work, which is currently called AlSham Central Hospital, which is supported by the UN, was bombed last month on the 5thMay of this year. I am a surgeon in this hospital and the director of the Medical Hospital for the last year and a half.

     

    This hospital has a long history of bombardment! It was called Hama Central Hospital, and it was located in Hzarine area nearby Kafranbel. We were bombed several times between 2013 and 2015. The last one caused the death of a nurse from Kafranbel city alongside several critical injuries amongst the patients. This pushed us to relocate the hospital to another area called Abdin, which was an underground cave with more than ten meters of mountain wall thickness.

    It was also bombed several times, the last one was with extremely explosive missiles which even broke into all that thickness and resulted in the martyrdom of four. Three of them were a family, a mother, a father and a little girl who came for a bowel obstruction surgery. She was in a residency room. In addition to them, there was a follow-up patient who came for a broken femur. These four got martyred and one other staff in the hospital was injured. The hospital was almost completely destroyed. This pushed us again to relocate the hospital into AlSham Central Hospital which is an underground building on the outskirts of Kefranbel city in an olive grove.

     

    Q2: Could you tell us what were the consequences of these attacks on you and on civilians??

    from 02:00min

     

    With regards to AlSham Central Hospital in the city of Kefranbel, it used to operate general, orthopaedic and vascular surgeries. This hospital had been bombed three times previously, and it was bombed again this month. This caused it to be put out of service temporarily. This shelling didn't affect the Human Resources because we evacuated the building a few minutes before it was hit after we had been warned by the warning centres that the hospitals will be bombed and ours in particular. We evacuated the staff and the patients, and thanks to God, no one was hurt. However, the building was damaged a lot and we are currently doing some maintenance in order to resume the work shortly.

     

    Q3: How do attacks against health care affect displacement?

    from 02:58min

     

    With regards to the effects of bombardment on the displacement of health staff and the population, of course, the shelling has massively affected the population because it targeted hospitals, bakeries, schools and children gatherings.

    This pushed people to flee. Even the medical staff had to flee after the hospital had been bombed. Residential areas are also a target, so most of the medical staff fled from Kefranbel city to the Syrian north. We now have a deficit in medical staff in AlSham hospital. But God's willing, we will resume work and ask the medical staff to return after we finish the maintenance. This shelling affected all aspects of life! this caused all people, medical and non-medical to flee in huge numbers to the north.

     

    Q4: What are you going to do next? Do you have any plans for you and your family?

    from 04:13min

     

    For me personally, after this hospital was put out of service... I was working in another hospital in Qalaat AlMadiq where I used to divide my time between the two, the one in Qalaat AlMadiq and AlSham Hospital, both have been put out of service. I fled to the north to a town called Barisha. Now I am trying to prepare for a new hospital in Aqrabat area to substitute the maternity and children hospital that was in Qalaat AlMadiq. We rented a building and we are preparing it so we can open the hospital soon, in a week or two, it will be a surgical, maternity and children hospital in Aqrabat area. God's willing, if AlSham Hospital reopens again, I will divide my time between there and the new one in Aqrabat. This is my situation. My family fled with me to Barisha in the north close to Sarmada town.

    Tomorrow will be more beautiful (بكرة أحلى)

    This storyteller is a humanitarian worker in Afrin town in the north of Syria. She tells the story of her disrupted studies, displacement and fears.

     

     

    Q1: How did the conflict change your life? What did you lose? What did you gain?

    from 00:00min

     

    I am a humanitarian worker! War has entirely changed my life!


    At first, I was a student and I had my dreams and ambitions. I wanted to study, to continue my studies, and to teach my children. I have a lot of ambitions. Unfortunately, the war forced me to be displaced, to leave my country and the place where I had been living. I moved somewhere else and of course, I couldn't continue my studies. So I only have the degree I had had before all of this happened, and I couldn't get any further in my studies.

     

    Things changed and I needed to find a job in a different domain than the one I had planned for. I did several things, teaching and stuff like that .. but they have never been the ones I dream of or aspire to.


    After that, we had another war. I came back to Afrin and another war took place. I lost even the dreams that I had built! I had to restart from zero, again! we started all over again, and thanks to God, I found a place where my work can help people. It is a job but, at the same time, I am helping others.

    The work is difficult, and humanitarian work has a lot of problems. But one of its beautiful aspects is that I am helping other people! I can help people in need especially that I am working in the medical field. It is a blessing that I can help and treat them! I also lost many things, my ambitions and dreams are all lost because of the work I am in now! I cannot continue my studies and cannot even work in my original field of study.

     

    Q2: What makes you feel unsafe in the health centre / the hospital / the ambulance and why?

    from 01:49min

     

    What makes me feel unsafe is in the mornings when I go to work not knowing what awaits me on the way. Would there be an exchange of fire, shelling on the road? When I arrive at work, I am always worried what if something happens around my house, a bombardment or something else, how am I supposed to get there on time for my daughter! At the same time, I cannot leave my daughter in a nursery or anywhere to take care of her, because if I leave her there and any of the problems I mentioned happened, I won't be able to reach her. Therefore, as much as they might take care of her, mothers' care is different. I will always need to be with my child, like all other mothers. I am sure we all have similar problems, particularly working mothers.


    At work, we experience a lot of problems with people in uniforms who think that they have priority because they are part of a certain armed group .. That they

    should not queue and that they should be registered even if the doctor has the maximum possible number of patients.


    There is always this idea that they should be prioritized because they are armed. This makes us feel very unsafe despite the guards and the management. Whenever there are weapons around us we’ll be afraid. We try to tell ourselves that it is ok and that they won't hurt us, but you never know what they might do if they get angry.

     

    We have the same concerns on the way back home, clashes and explosions, we cannot go out to buy what we need because we don't know when we find a car bomb or step on a mine! We don't know what awaits us, we cannot go for a walk or work properly. There are all these issues that make us feel unsafe in all the places where we go.

    Q3: Tell us about a memory that you will always remember from the conflict

    from 03:45min

     

    One memory I will never ever forget is when we were all in a basement, my family, myself and my daughter and almost all the neighbours who lived around us were in that basement. It was a very narrow and dark place. It was cold and very rainy outside. There was shelling and shelling and shelling and we could only see the world being lit outside! it was very loud, and the children were waking up because of the loud noise! it was night time, the young children woke up and cried. the older children who were a bit more aware of what was happening put their hands on their ears and asked their mothers: are we going to die? what will happen to us?


    It was an unforgettable situation! I will never forget it especially the sound of the missile, the sound of its launch, and the sound of its fall. It was one night but I will never forget it in my life. If I, the adult, cannot forget it, how would the children forget?

     

    Q4: What kept you going in your work despite the conflict and the daily danger?

    from 04:50min

     

    What kept me going despite the difficult situation we are living in is honestly financial in the first place. We need a daily income to continue our lives! to be able to live, myself and my family and my daughter, I have to work and to support my husband.


    More importantly, is the humanitarian aspect. We studied and got educated not to sit at home but to help others. Either through my current work in the health humanitarian field or through my previous work in education. Children cannot go to schools anymore and everything changed for them, I used to bring school children who I knew, and I tried to keep them connected to education. Even with simple stuff such as words, letters or language. It is so important for them to have the mindset of continuous education and the feeling of going to school.

    A smile of hope (بسمة أمل)

    This storyteller is a mental health team leader from Qaboun (a district in Damascus). She tells the story of triple displacement, living under siege and hope for the future.

     

     

    Q1: How did the conflict change your life? What did you lose? What did you gain?

    from 00:00min

     

    The war changed so much in my life. I was in Damascus working as a team leader with autistic children. I was working with the children who are in need of special services. However, because of the constant unbearable pressure and the siege on Qaboun (a district to the east of Damascus) where we lived, I had to run away with my family and children. We suffered a lot, my brothers were still inside the besieged district of Qaboun and even bread was extremely difficult to bring in there. I wasn’t able to provide the humanitarian service to the children anymore, so I decided to withdraw...


    We came to Idlib. Here it was similar, I was exhausted because of the bombardment. I was constantly worried about my children and about the children I work with. I met many amazing people here in Idlib, and I established strong connections with the autistic children and their parents. Also with children with special needs in general...

    But the constant shelling meant that I was always afraid of losing my children, they are the most important thing I have in this world. Therefore, I was displaced again to Afrin. Here again, I restarted establishing myself, but I lost a lot. I lost the people I met in Idlib. However, I kept in touch with the parents of autistic children because their individual treatment plans need to be regularly updated.

     

    I am trying to rebuild my life here in Afrin, but the war left painful scars in my heart. I will keep trying to help the children here and to provide them with the support they need, as much as I can.

     

    Q2: What makes you feel unsafe in the health centre / the hospital / the ambulance and why?

    from 01:54min

     

    What makes me feel unsafe in the facility where I work? Honestly, the security situation is unstable. Many days, they tell us that there is a car bomb in a certain place, or that there is an armed clash. My mind gets completely distracted! On one hand, I worry about my children and my husband, and on the other the children I received here and am responsible for. How would I take them to safety or to their homes? Here I get very stressed, but I try to control it, so I don’t channel my fears to the children. But of course, the war and the violent armed clashes are massively affecting our lives and our children’s lives... I hope that things will calm down in the future, inchallah.

     

    Q3: Tell us about a memory that you will always remember from the conflict

    from 02:52min

     

    I want to tell one memory of the war, that I not only will never forget, but it is engraved deep into my heart. It was mothers’ day when my brother became a martyr. He had promised me to come and visit, my mother is dead, and he wanted to come to visit me. He was a fighter and we count him as a martyr, inchallah. He called me and said that he’s on his way. But we couldn’t see him because he got the honour of martyrdom...

    When we had the chance to go and check on him and how the tank had hit him, how he was bleeding... I hugged him and he was warm... I told

    my husband he’s still alive... we can still save him... but we were besieged in Qaboun and there was no way to take him anywhere to be treated. My husband told me to leave him and that he was gone... I lost my mother and father before, but honestly, nothing is engraved in my heart like the time when I lost my brother. We count him as a martyr inchallah.

     

    Q4: What kept you going in your work despite the conflict and the daily danger?

    from 04:03min

     

    The war, to the contrary of what people might think, gave us more strength! We became more determined that despite all the difficulties, we will continue, and we will give the beautiful things we have. We, thank God, have beautiful things! We are able to restore smiles! We are able to strengthen this new generation to be educated. We are able to teach them determination, that despite the war, they should study, that they should get educated and that they should be resilient. Even for children with disabilities, that they can still study and be happy! And that we can still restore the joy in the hearts of the parents of these children too. They also need support! The war is making us stronger to continue giving the best we have, inchallah.

    Targeting the humanitarian operations during the war in northern Syria

    (استهداف العمل الأنساني في ظل الحرب بالشمال السوري)

    This storyteller is responsible for media and documentation at the Hama Health Directorate. He tells his own story of displacement to the north of Syria, and how the targeted bombardment of health services and workers forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee.

     

     

    Q1: Have you witnessed or heard about attacks against health facilities or workers during the last offence against the opposition areas?

    from 00:00min

     

    During the last month (May 2019), the regime forces and their allies: the Russians and the Iranians, intensified their targeting of Hama northern countryside and Idlib southern countryside. They targeted residential areas with their civilian inhabitants. They also targeted medical and humanitarian facilities. Most of them were deliberately targeted by Russian and Syrian fighter jets.

     

    I am responsible for media and documentation in the Hama Health Directorate. I witnessed most of the shelling incidents on health facilities run by Hama Health Directorate, and on the humanitarian facilities, on the first responders’ crews and the ambulance systems. They were deliberately targeted.

    The place where I worked was not directly bombed but the surrounding areas were. This is something that hindered our work and made it extremely difficult. We cannot go there anymore because of the deliberate targeting of roads in the area! they targeted everything moving on the roads. We tried to work safely and to transfer our work to a safer location to preserve the lives of health staff. We documented most of the attacks on the facilities and hospitals run by Hama Health Directorate. 24 facilities were targeted in Hama and Idlib, most of them were badly destroyed.

     

    Q2: Could you tell us what were the consequences to these attacks on you and on civilians?

    from 02:00min

     

    The results of the bombardment were catastrophic on humanitarian operations in this area! The fact that 24 health facilities in Hama and Idlib countryside went out of service has massively affected the presence of civilians in the area. The absence of medical care services and provision means the absence of civilians, it means that civilians are forced to flee. The presence of people in any area is linked to the presence of medical services. The targeting of ambulances became a daily reality, fighter jets are always in the skies. Two of our colleagues were killed in the targeted bombardment of the medical crews in the area.


    We established another office in the north while keeping the original one in the south, in Idlib southern countryside. We did this to preserve the continuity of the work and to provide health services in the areas of displacement as well as in Hama countryside.

     

     

     

    Q3: How do attacks against health care affect displacement?

    from 03:23min

     

    The areas that are being targeted have become almost empty of medical services. This has greatly affected the displacement of medical staff, and 90% of them have fled to the Syrian north. Only ambulance systems and few surgical units are still there. The regime now, deliberately and inevitably targets medical facilities even before the military ones. This led to the displacement of more than 350,000 civilians, including locals as well as people who had been displaced from other areas in Syria to Hama and Idlib countryside. Of course, transferring patients from these areas is now extremely difficult because of the targeting of ambulance systems and staff.

     

    Q4: What are you going to do next? do you have any plans for you and your family?

    from 04:36min

     

    Our presence as humanitarian workers in these areas is critical. However, the intensity of the bombardment forced most of my colleagues in the medical teams to flee to the northern areas. For me personally, my house was targeted several times by Russian fighter jets. Currently, I moved my family into safer areas in the north and I continue to work in the newly-established office of Hama Health Directorate in the north.