Starved infants, wounded women crowd Syrian hospitals after Daesh defeat

The International Rescue Committee says Monday the highest weekly death rate reflects the desperate conditions of the mostly women and children who left the village of Baghouz for al-Hol camp. (AP)
Updated 07 April 2019

Starved infants, wounded women crowd Syrian hospitals after Daesh defeat

  • The exodus during intense fighting of more than 60,000 people from Daesh’s final redoubt of Baghouz is overwhelming medical staff in eastern Syria
  • US-backed forces declared the defeat in March of Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate

HASAKA, Syria: The paramedics’ log at Al-Hol camp in eastern Syria lists the injuries and ailments of infants rushed from the battlefield to its crowded, dirty clinic: malnourishment, stunted growth, broken leg.
Those in critical need – mostly emaciated babies born in war to the wives of dead Daesh militants – are taken to the nearest hospital, a bumpy two-hour drive away. Other people cram into a waiting room with a tin roof in a growing queue for basic medical treatment.
At the hospital, staff have had to build two portacabins on the roof that serve as a makeshift ward for the treatment of malnourished babies, crammed sometimes two or three to a cot.
Lower floors are filled with teenagers missing limbs and women with shrapnel and bullet wounds.
The exodus during intense fighting of more than 60,000 people from Daesh’s final redoubt of Baghouz is overwhelming medical staff in eastern Syria who struggle to cope at the camp and ill-equipped hospitals.
Scores of people, mostly children, have died on the 150-mile (240-kilometer) journey to Al-Hol or soon after arriving, aid groups say.
“My son has a dislocated hip. He needs an operation urgently,” said Umm Mohammed, a veiled 33-year-old woman holding an expressionless six-month-old boy at the camp.
“Medics keep saying they have more urgent cases to deal with — wounds and shrapnel injuries.”
In the waiting area, dozens of people who mostly left Baghouz during a brief truce last month, arranged for civilians and surrendering militants to evacuate, sit on wooden benches or the concrete floor. Children in wheelchairs watch while babies scream as they are bandaged or given injections.
US-backed forces declared the defeat in March of Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate – the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria – after militants were driven out of the village of Baghouz where they made a months-long last stand.
The intense bombardment and fighting to dislodge the Sunni extremist group cost countless lives and wounded many more people, including the wives of fighters, their children, Daesh supporters and other civilians trapped by the militants in the enclave.
Those who evacuated in recent weeks have strained health care in Kurdish-run areas of eastern Syria beyond capacity.
In the clinic at Al-Hol, which is hosting more than 70,000 people displaced by violence, many people wore crude casts. One woman said she did not have enough painkillers for a wound to her hand – a long metal rod from the explosion that wounded her and killed three relatives was still lodged in her knuckle.
“I just want an X-ray at the hospital,” she said, giving her name as Umm Ahmed.
Starving children of Daesh
But local hospitals can take only the most severe cases.
In one room at the hospital in the nearby town of Hasaka, 19-year-old Baraa Al-Kurdi, the wife of a Syrian Daesh member, lay motionless next to a boy with third-degree burns covering his head.
“I was hit in the head by shrapnel,” Kurdi said quietly. “We were next to a car packed with ammunition and explosives, including suicide belts ready for fighters to use.
“My husband was killed. My daughter is one month old – she’s upstairs in the babies’ ward.”
Kurdi’s daughter was one of the few non-foreign infants in the ward.
Others, many blond or with Asian features, lay quietly in their cots with cheekbones showing and eyes sunken into their sockets from malnutrition. The patients’ register listed the names their mothers gave the hospital – Ali Azerbaijani, Ali Al-Uzbeki, Mohamed Skramo, a Norwegian name.
Many who remained in Baghouz until the end of the fighting were die-hard supporters of Daesh who flocked from all over the world to support its violent interpretation of Islam.
A number of European countries have refused to take back citizens who joined Daesh, putting additional strain on local authorities to deal with prisoners and patients.
“Children from the camp are arriving night and day. We currently have more than 70 babies being treated for malnutrition,” a nurse in the ward said.
She and other hospital staff declined to be named or for the hospital to be identified, fearing reprisals for treating the children of Daesh fighters.
“Most cases are treated and then returned to the camp. A few have died. We’re doing out best but had limited resources even before this influx.”
More than 200 people have died on their way to Al-Hol or after arriving in the camp in recent months, according to the International Rescue Committee. It said this week that around 30 to 50 cases every day were referred to local hospitals.
“We get 30 ambulances arriving each day,” a local health official said, also declining to be named.
“There’s aid from international organizations for those from Baghouz. They’re mostly foreign. We can barely provide health care for our own.”


Palestinian leader roundly rejects Trump peace plan

Updated 32 min 24 sec ago

Palestinian leader roundly rejects Trump peace plan

  • Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation
  • Calls for Palestinians to resist the plan through 'peaceful, popular means'

RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said “a thousand no's” Tuesday to the Mideast peace plan announced by President Donald Trump, which strongly favors Israel.
“After the nonsense that we heard today we say a thousand no's to the Deal of The Century," Abbas said at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered.
He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.
“We will not kneel and we will not surrender,” Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians would resist the plan through “peaceful, popular means.”
The plan would create a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank, but would allow Israel to annex nearly all of its settlements in the occupied territory. The plan would allow the Palestinians to establish a capital on the outskirts of east Jerusalem but would leave most of the city under Israeli control.
The Islamic militant group ruling Gaza rejected the "conspiracies" announced by the U.S. and Israel and said "all options are open" in responding to the Trump administration's plan.
“We are certain that our Palestinian people will not let these conspiracies pass. So, all options are open. The (Israeli) occupation and the U.S. administration will bear the responsibility for what they did," senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said as he participated in one of several protests that broke out across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Protesters burned tires and pictures of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Abbas held an emergency meeting with other Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to discuss a unified response to the plan. Abbas had rejected the deal before it was announced saying the U.S. was hopelessly biased toward Israel.
Jordan meanwhile warned against any Israeli "annexation of Palestinian lands" and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned of “the dangerous consequences of unilateral Israeli measures, such as annexation of Palestinian lands.”
Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries to have made peace with Israel.