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Idlib today – a “humanity crisis”

Living conditions in IDP camps located in the Jebel Harem area of Northwest Syria get increasingly difficult in winter. People live in tents made of plastic sheeting and have to face cold and humidity in this mountainous area of Idlib governorate. © MSF
Personal reflections from Cristian Reynders, MSF Project Coordinator for northwestern Syria.

    Recorded 26 February 2020; at an MSF Syria Coordination office outside of Syria.

    Idlib today – a “humanity crisis”

    “Just try to picture: you’re end of the afternoon, beginning of the evening. You are in a place where you feel safe; in your house, or in a room. You are preparing your meal, having a tea, watching the kids playing or playing with the kids.

    And then everything is engulfed in flames. Under a huge loud noise. And everything goes crumbling. And that’s what happened yesterday.

    And everybody went from a situation where you are just happily enjoying your late-afternoon or beginning-of-evening; to a situation of basically despair, death of yourself, or the ones you love, of your children, of your beloved ones.

    That’s what happened yesterday, without any warning.

    And now picture this also: You are a doctor. You are already not equipped. Your hospital is not in good shape. And now you have tens of people, wounded, bleeding, with limbs falling, legs amputated, arms amputated, and you need to save them, sometimes without anaesthesia.

    And you are responding to this, knowing that maybe the next bomb will be for you. And that you might be the next one in flames, while you are performing your duty as a doctor.

    That’s what happened yesterday.

    We had contacts with the medical staff. Their voices were, I mean, shattered with emotion. They were just hanging on, hoping on. I cannot even describe it – their voices were like… they could barely talk.

    And they were only trying to stay fit and thinking how can we… what can we do to save these people that minutes ago were just preparing for their evening, having a tea, and trying to survive.

    We talk about how much? More that 150 injured, at once. Phew!

    So… that’s the horror of this story. You have 3 million people today that are trapped. They are trapped and there is nowhere to be safe.

    So there is a level of despair of the population, feeling completely abandoned.

    It’s bigger than all of us, indeed. It’s bigger, I mean… In a humanitarian crisis we know how to respond as an organization. No matter how big is the crisis, we know.

    And this is our job – our purpose. And we are doing it. Support to hospitals? We are giving everything we can, we are giving to them. That’s not an issue. Materials, equipment, surgical, first aid, everything we are giving to them.

    But what can we do when hospitals are being bombed? What can we do? Just assist [watch] as spectators? In my opinion that’s the thing that we are seeing. We are facing – we can call it a human crisis, a humanity crisis, I don’t know…

    But the thing is, in this situation, we are powerless. Basically, there are institutions that have been built – there are states that have signed conventions to specifically avoid this situation; to protect the medical structure that represents a hospital, to protect human life, to hold accountable whoever commits atrocities.

    Where are these institutions?

    We are powerless in this. The only thing we can do is, scream with our lungs and try to mobilize the ones that have this responsibility. And they have a huge responsibility on their hands, which is to preserve human life.

    In Idlib that’s the only thing they just keep hoping for; preserve human life. And, well, their hopes are lowering by the minute, by the day.

    We offer them all the support we can. And practically speaking, just the last three or four weeks we have done a total of five donations of medical equipments, surgical equipment, first aid equipment and material. We are preparing an additional donation as we speak, for them to be able to cope with this situation; to basically support the doctors in performing their duties – their life-saving duties towards the population. This is what we have been done and continuously doing.

    But what can we do when, if a bomb falls on a hospital? No matter what medicine, equipment we provide, how can we reassure the doctors that everything is going to be fine, when yesterday bombs fell like 100m away from the hospitals?

    We basically participate – we are not the only ones of course – but we are participating in ensuring that the health system, as overstretched as it is, manages to survive, to be kept afloat.

    And basically all the credit is to be given to the medical staff that is performing duties day and night, in terrific conditions. We – we just try to participate in giving them the means perform their duties.

    That’s the reality today in Idlib.”