(Vatican Radio) During the General Audience on 25th October, Pope Francis met with two doctors from the Syrian American Medical Society. The Pope told them that he loves Syria and prays for Syrian children every day.
The doctors, who have been working in some of the most dangerous regions of Syria, spoke to Vatican Radio about their experiences working in the heart of the Syrian conflict. The Syrian military forces have been fighting anti-governement rebels, and the so-called Islamic State, since 2011.
Doctors Ayman and Nour both currently work in Idlib, where some of the fiercest fighting is still taking place. In amongst the danger, they try to care for those who have been caught up in the fighting.
“Often, being a doctor in Idlib is more dangerous than being a fighter on the frontline,” says Dr Ayman who is a Vascular surgeon, “The hospitals are deliberatley targeted by the fighters.”
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) recieves no support from the Syrian government. It is entirely dependant upon support from Non Government Organisations (NGO’s) and medical associations in order to run it’s hospitals, schools and health centres.
Dr Nour, who is a Paediatrician, says that between 80-90% of the children she works with are psychological traumatised by what is happening around them and what they are experiencing every day. Most of the children have lost their families as a result of the conflict.
“One little girl I work with takes care of her 3 siblings, she is only 10 years old herself. He mother was killed in the fighting and her father abandoned the family” she explains.
During their interview both of the doctors frequently struggle to put their experiences into words, such is the horror of the situation around them.
SAMS has created mobile clinics to travel to areas where the fighting is so fierce that it is too dangerous for people to travel to the hospitals, but even this work is not enough to relieve people’s suffering. Due to a lack of supplies, many patients cannot be properly treated, and problems with basic sanitation only make the situation worse.
Amongst the danger and tragedy, there are still some stories of hope. Both doctors were moved to describe the case of an 11 year old girl sustained a chest injury. The wound was so bad that some of her organs were now on the outside of her body.
“She should have been killed but she was strong, she fought to live! She’s a miracle” says Dr Nour.
Despite the small glimpses of hope, both doctors agree that the situation in Syria is getting worse. “It’s getting worse because the conflict keeps going. We need to stop the war because people are tired of it, they want to lead a normal life” says Dr Ayman.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with Doctors Nour and Ayman: