Exclusive: The Silent Killer of Children in Syria Nobody Wants to Talk About

(ANTIMEDIA)  Western-imposed sanctions are making basic necessities almost impossible to come by in Syria, killing innocent children in the process, sources tell Anti-Media.

According to Tom Duggan, a British journalist who has lived in Damascus for approximately five years, sanctions have made everyday objects incredibly difficult to obtain, including items and accessories the rest of us would normally take for granted.

“Sanctions are costing the normal people here in Syria hardship,” Duggan told Anti-Media.

“It took me three months to get antibiotics once in 2014 as there was no supply coming in,” he added.

“If you have a car, getting a spare part is difficult. Repairs to household goods such as fridges and TVs – how can you repair them if you can’t get the part?”

According to Duggan, in that light, one can imagine how difficult it is to receive proper medical care and life-saving equipment. Duggan estimates the cost of everyday medicines to have increased by at least ten times, and he says that’s that’s a conservative estimate.

“Sanctions don’t work, they only harm the poor. Sanctions are an instrument of war. I am watching children and people in Syria suffer because of them. Sanctions mean that instead, Syria has to look to import from third world countries, including medicines that don’t even work correctly,” Duggan stated.

Duggan brought to light the case of Joud Haidar, a three-year-old boy who was found lying unresponsive in a Damascus Children’s Hospital. According to Stella Matt, the organizer of a crowd-sourced fundraiser for Joud, Joud suffered from hydrocephalus, a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the skull and causes the brain to swell.

Matt is part of an active group of people who came together from Australia, Lebanon, Germany, the United States, and Syria to discuss possible treatment options for Joud.

Joud was unable to receive the correct treatment in Syria “as the equipment and doctors are not available, both as a direct result of economic sanctions imposed by the EU, the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and Switzerland,” Matt told Anti-Media.

The group was successful in booking Joud for surgery in Malaysia for January 16 of this year with a cost for treatment and travel quoted at $17,000 USD. Complicating matters further, Joud contracted chicken pox after Christmas last year and was told he would be unable to travel until he was no longer contagious. Not long after this, Joud contracted pneumonia.

To most of us in the West, these are fairly common illnesses. But despite the team’s best efforts to do everything to save the young boy, Joud passed away on or around January 13, three days before his planned surgery in Malaysia.

During his treatment, Joud desperately needed a CT scan, but the hospital had none. He was dependent on a ventilator, and he could not be transferred back to the children’s hospital because they did not possess one. According to Matt, Damascus Children’s Hospital is the largest out of Syria’s children’s hospitals but has only 400 beds in total.

“The health care system is challenged by the destruction of hospitals, the lack of medical machinery (including maintenance and spare parts for current devices), and the loss of doctors. Maintenance of medical technology and spare part procurement is very serious as if a machine breaks down, it cannot be repaired. Economic sanctions on Syria do not allow the purchase or repair of lifesaving equipment,” Matt told Anti-Media.

The effect of sanctions on ordinary Syrians is no secret to the mainstream media or the Western governments that enforce these devastating policies. In March of last year, Reuters reported that in the cancer ward at Damascus Children’s Hospital, doctors had been struggling with a critical shortage of specialist drugs to treat their young patients. At the time, local and World Health Organization (WHO) officials squarely blamed western sanctions for severely restricting pharmaceutical imports.

“The impact of economic sanctions imposed on Syria heavily affected the procurement of some specific medicine including anti-cancer medicines,” Elizabeth Hoff, the WHO representative in Syria, said in March of last year as quoted by Reuters.

Matt explained to Anti-Media that sanctions have forced Syria to rely on third-rate suppliers for chemotherapy drugs, which are simply not effective in treating cancer patients.

According to Reuters, Head of Damascus Children’s Hospital Maher Haddad said Pharmex – the state-owned company that buys drugs from government-funded hospitals across Syria – is only able to provide 5-10 percent of the cancer medication that the hospital requires, again due to sanctions.

Countries taking part in wreaking this havoc across Syria include the United States, the Arab League, Australia, the European Union, and Turkey, to name a few. In 2016, a 40-page internal assessment commissioned by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia to study the humanitarian impact of sanctions in Syria described the U.S. and E.U. measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.”

According to WHO, as of last year, only 44 percent of hospitals in Syria are fully functioning.

It should be noted that despite the struggle to get basic medical equipment into Syria, the U.S. and its allies have found no issue whatsoever in importing billions of dollars’ worth of military-grade weapons every year into the war-torn country, maximizing the suffering to the greatest extent possible.

Following the invasion of Iraq in 1991, the U.S. famously imposed a draconian sanctions regime that according to U.N. estimates killed approximately 1.7 million Iraqi civilians, including 500,000 children. When questioned on this issue at the time, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright intimated that the price of 500,000 children was “worth it.”

Nothing is worth the suffering of innocent children, and it’s time we treat sanctions for what they really are: an act of war.

As Duggan told Anti-Media, sanctions are the “silent killer.” While the rest of the world sits, watches, and condemns the Syrian, Iranian, and Russian government for allegedly committing the crimes they commit, we should remind ourselves that our governments are killing children on a regular basis at a scale that makes our adversaries pale in comparison.

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