30 Sep 2021

Malnourished children dying in Idlib hospitals overwhelmed by Covid

Health and Social Care Editor

Malnourished children are dying from Covid in one of the last rebel-held areas in Syria, where crowded hospitals are struggling to cope with an influx of patients suffering from the virus.

Many children in Idlib are starved and weakened after years of war, making them more susceptible to the virus.

Bashar Darwishm, a nurse at Ibn Sina Hospital in the newly opened children’s ward, said: “Since we opened the children section we have received 16 patients. Two of them have died.”

Dr Jumaah Issa, who also works in Ibn Sina Hospital, added: “We are not used to dealing with children with Covid-19 at all, it used to be nonexistent in children or rare, but we are facing these new challenges of infected children and the need for beds.”

‘Dying in my arms’

There are only six hospitals for Covid patients across Syria’s rebel-held areas which equates to just 124 intensive care beds for a population of 4 million people. Often it takes a death to free up a space.

Many of the doctors and nurses have left and those who have stayed live now, not with the sound of falling bombs, but with the constant chorus of ventilators.

Dr Ammar Kisoum, an intensive care doctor at the Al Zeraa Hospital, said: “To say the situation is tragic is an understatement, no words can express it.”

He added: “We have 70 beds, all of them are occupied, and there is no space in other hospitals and intensive care wards.”

Mohammad Yassin tried for two weeks to get his critically ill mother admitted to a hospital.

After he was told there was no room for her at the hospital, Mr Yassin told staff: “She is on her last breath. You are asking me why I am shouting and why I am angry, she is dying in my arms.”

She was eventually admitted after another patient died.

Just 2.5 per cent of Idlib’s population has received one Covid vaccine dose. Syria itself has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world.

Covid testing in the community is rare, so it is a guess how many people are infected and how many are dying.

Filmmaker: Fadi Al Halabi

Producers: Millicent Teasdale and Kamal Kaddourah