01:03 GMT28 January 2020
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    Syria has been mired in war for the past six years. On top of the horrendous battles that the country is fighting with terrorists, it is also trying to stay economically afloat after Western sanctions were imposed. These sanctions have dire effects on many industries, particularly medical.

    Sputnik takes a look at how these sanctions affect cancer patients living in Syria.

    A 9-year-old boy, Taj, was sick. His family tried everything to cure him but little did they know that the boy was suffering from an acute stage of leukemia. Taj lived in a village in the province of Latakia, so his family did not have access to modern equipment. 

    Taj
    © Sputnik /
    Taj

    However, when their territory was liberated from militants and doctors diagnosed the boy, he was sent to the al-Biruni oncology hospital in Damascus.

    Ihab al Nakri, the chief doctor at al-Biruni hospital, which is considered to be the main cancer hospital in Syria, told Sputnik Arabic that every day 700 patients receive free cancer treatment at the hospital.

    There is a whole spectrum of medical treatment available at the hospital such as therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, radiology and all the necessary blood tests, etc.

    “Patients are coming from all the regions of the country, with daily chemotherapy received by 200-300 people,” the doctor said.

    Al Biruni hospital in Damascus
    © Sputnik / Freda Shahin
    Al Biruni hospital in Damascus

    Al Nakri further said that Russian doctors, during their visits to Syria, conduct examinations and treatments of the patients. 

    The equipment and medicines brought from Russia have greatly helped Syrians overcome the difficulties that arise due to the Western sanctions imposed on the country.

    According to the chief doctor the Syrian government is covering all the costs of treatment for these 700 patients.

    Al Nakri said, “The cost of the radiological treatment of one patient, the surgical operation and accompanying costs come at about 500,000 Syrian pounds. A monthly course of chemotherapy is 1 million Syrian pounds. For comparison, the cost of radiological treatment in neighboring countries is 4 million Syrian pounds.”

    According to the doctor over the past year, 8,000 new cases of cancer have been reported in Syria.

    Syrian doctors can carry out all operations, except bone marrow transplantations. 

    “Prior to the sanctions, Syrian oncologists could carry out this operation but now the necessary equipment is out of order and the required medicines are not being supplied,” al Nakri said.

    The chief physician at “al-Jamiah children's hospital,” Mazen al-Haddad, told Sputnik Arabic that 250-300 Syrian children with tumors are treated monthly at his hospital. 

    However, their treatment is hampered by acute shortages of medications due to the sanctions.

    A board member of the Russian non-governmental organization (NGO) Fair Help by Doctor Lisa, Natalia Avilova, previously told Sputnik that from this year onwards the team of the NGO will be delivering medicine for Syrian children. 

    In two trips over 500 kg of medicines were brought into the country.

    “We took medicines to Tishrin hospital, first of all, for the separation of neonatology, for premature babies. Without these drugs, children will not survive, as they cannot breathe on their own. We perceive it as a miracle, when doctors of this hospital nurse such tiny toddlers,” Avilova said.

    She added that the second priority is medicine for children battling cancer.

    Avilova also pointed out that the medical situation in the country is in a dire state because of the imposed sanctions on Syria.

    According to Avilova, "It is absolutely inhumane when sanctions relate not only to basic necessities, but also medicines and particularly medicines for children. We, among other things, consider it our task to gather information to discuss this question again and again in the Foreign Ministry and perhaps, at the international level.”

    “Do not restrict the supply of drugs, without which children will die. This is absolutely monstrous,” Avilova said.

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    Tags:
    interview, sanctions, treatment, cancer, children, Fair Help, Syria
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