Forth Valley doc’s work with war victims

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A FORTH VALLEY doctor has spoken for the first time about his efforts to help victims of the Syrian civil war.

Dr Ghassam Al-Nourani, a consultant paediatrician based at the Forth Valley Royal Infirmary in Larbert, said that conditions at the refugee camp he had visited were “shocking” and that urgent assistance was needed to prevent the humanitarian crisis from worsening.

Armed conflict broke out in the Middle Eastern country in March 2011 pitting Government forces against rebels aiming to oust the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria since 1971.

The civil war has continued to escalate, leading to the deaths of an estimated 70,000 people and forcing more than one million Syrians to flee the country as refugees, with many of them seeking shelter in neighbouring Turkey.

It was there that Dr Al-Nourani and his son Annar, a dentist, flew to offer medical assistance in late January.

They also visited the refugee camp in Atma, northern Syria, which is home to some 12,000 refugees.

“Conditions there are very, very bad,” said Dr Al-Nourani. “There is no proper sanitation, very little food and the roads are simply mud.

“More than half of the refugees are children. In Syrian culture, most families have five children, which explains why there are so many there.

“And in this camp there is no education or work - there is nothing for them to do.”

One of the most in-demand items in the camp is baby milk, as many of the woman refugees are not able to offer breast milk due to stress and a lack of food.

Dr Al-Nourani continued: “The baby milk being distributed is meant to last three days, but we discovered that the mothers were having to make it last for 12. It was very watered down.

“We would only distribute it to woman that we could see had babies, as there is a huge black market for it.”

Dr Al-Nourani, who has worked in Scotland for the past 21 years, travelled to the war zone with the Aid4All charity, which is based in Stirling.

The charity has recently helped establish a small children’s hospital in Atma.

Asked if he supported possible Western military intervention to remove the al-Assad regime, Dr Al-Nourani said: “I am not a politician. I am a doctor. It is my duty to help all those that are affected by the war.”

Aid4All will be staging a number of fundraising events next month. For more information, visit www.aid4all.net.