Stories from Aleppo: Medical workers under siege

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The stories told by health workers from Syria were heartbreaking.

They spoke of making desperate attempts to save people injured in a chemical attack on a hospital… of struggling to save people’s eyesight after they were hit in the face by shrapnel and rocks… of delivering babies, only to have them die later because they needed crucial medicines that were not available because of war conditions.

These were some of the experiences described by two Syrian doctors and a hospital administrator from the war-torn city of Aleppo at a March 20, 2017 talk at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The trio had traveled to Boston to request training for medical students and other volunteers who are helping with the sick and wounded in Syria, and to recruit nurses, midwives, specialists, and other volunteers to help rebuild the country’s fractured healthcare system.

The program, held in Kresge G1, was sponsored by the School’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a nonprofit, non-political organization representing Syrian-American medical professionals in the United States that provides humanitarian assistance to Syrians.

“Many times we had to choose which patient to treat and which to leave to die,” said one of the panelists, a hospital administrator who had directed a large trauma facility in Aleppo that was a frequent target of airstrikes and artillery shelling.

For more on this topic, read the Harvard Public Health magazine profile of pediatrician Annie Sparrow, M.P.H. ’04, who trains Syrian health workers.