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Photo: Rachel Unkovic, International Rescue Committee | Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A doctor’s account of the Syrian crisis from the frontline

17 October 2017

2011 was the year my life took a major turn. 

Nothing in my life has gone to plan since, which I think about each day. I am sure this thought is also shared by millions of Syrians across the world. 

The Syrian civil war in March 2011 was the beginning of what has turned into the largest humanitarian disaster since World War 2.  A student at the time, I was in my third year preparing for my master's degree in paediatrics at the University of Aleppo. My plan was to eventually complete a PHD in the paediatric field. 

In 2012, Aleppo received its first wave of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons).

The situation was getting worse each day, and I wanted to help. I volunteered as a paediatrician for nine months, providing as much medical support as possible in a small clinic prepared by SARC. This clinic was set up in a students’ residency where around 20,000 civilians resided. 

Having already been through what the average doctor would probably never experience in a lifetime, I managed to complete my studies, and graduate with a CES degree. 

Despite an extreme lack of medical funding in eastern Syria, I continued working with SARC. Years went by, more doctors were leaving Syria and funds were decreasing day by day. I was facing so many cases where I was unable to operate on patients due to the lack of medical equipment. 

“Then, the day came where I felt that what I was doing wasn't enough.”

My father had collapsed from a suspected a stroke, but our CT device was not functioning so we weren't able to properly diagnose him. We travelled far through multiple checkpoints to see a radiologist in Raqqa, where my father was diagnosed with Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). 

I then had to wait two weeks to take my father to the capital to be examined by a specialist and receive treatment. 

At that moment I realised that providing services as paediatrician was not enough, and there was a greater need to rebuild the Syrian health system.

Over the years, I worked with many organisations who gave me the opportunity to provide better services by monitoring hospitals across eastern Syria and supporting their needs. 

Today, I work with Syria Relief. Using the skills that I have learnt over the years, I work every day to serve the most desperate people in Syria on a greater, wider and longer-term scale. 

I am one of the few Syrian Doctors who has had the opportunity to share my story. I have travelled to London to support the launch of Bond’s State of the world’s emergencies report. I believe this report is a strong tool that can give many people working in the humanitarian sector and UK politicians a holistic picture of the suffering that the millions of people in Syria and other countries around the world are experiencing everyday day. 

Through all the turning points this crisis has taken me, and through all the hundreds of patients I could not operate on due to lack of funding, I want to urge all who are working in the humanitarian sector to continue raising awareness of a crisis that is affecting millions of lives.

Click here for the State of the world's emergencies report.

About the author

Syria Relief

Medical manager providing technical support at Syria Relief since 2015.