21:18 GMT15 May 2021
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    Due to the sanctions imposed by the West, Syrian hospitals are struggling with the shortages of medication, especially certain specific drugs which the country had been importing. Sputnik Arabic continues a series of its reports from Damascus, where families with children suffering with cancer have found themselves in dire situation.

    Muhammed Ali Zaarur told Sputnik that his five-year-old grandson Ahmed had been treated from cancer four years ago. His mother had died and now the elderly man brings the child to a hospital every three months for physical examination and analyses.

    He said that he hopes the punitive measures will be dropped as soon as possible; they had led to the shortages of valuable medication. If the ban is listed Syria's young cancer sufferers could receive the treatment they need to stand a fighting chance.

    The Chief Doctor of al-Jami hospital, Mazen al Haddad, told Sputnik that Syria is in dire need of about 30 types of cancer medication for children. Due to the shortages, the disease is progressing. Besides, he said, it is impossible to conduct certain types of medical surgery, such as bone marrow transplantation, among others.

    "The cost of such surgery for the Syrian government amounted to 20 million Syrian liras (or Syrian pound), the equivalent of $93,309. However we had to halt them due to the absence of necessary medication," the doctor told Sputnik.

    According to recent revelations of Elizabeth Hoff, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Syria, the impact of economic sanctions imposed on Syria heavily affected the procurement of some specific medicine, including anti-cancer medicines.

    The WHO official told an Iranian Press TV broadcaster that in addition to cancer medication, there were critical shortages of insulin, anesthetics, specific antibiotics needed for intensive care, serums, intravenous fluids and other blood products and vaccines.

    Syria has been slapped with an array of sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union, which claim they have included exemptions for medicines and other humanitarian supplies for Syria.

    However, the sanctions are affecting the trade in pharmaceuticals due to the restrictions on financial transactions and business with the Syrian government.

    The sanctions are preventing many international pharmaceutical companies from dealing with the Syrian authorities as well as hindering foreign banks' handling of payments for imported drugs, Hoff said.

    The WHO is supplying medication to Syria, but it covers only 1.2 percent of the overall demand. The major bulk of the imported medication is being supplied by Syria-based BASMA, the Children With Cancer Support Association.

    Sputnik Arabic spoke with the Executive Director of the Association Rima Salem who said that the country's oncological hospitals lack 80 percent of needed medication. At the start of the Syrian crisis the figure was 10 percent.

    Rima Salem revealed that the association supplies medication worth 25 million Syrian liras ($116,637) a month. For the ten years, from 2006 to 2016 the organization was able to help 5,700 children. Its monthly expenses amount to 33 million liras ($154,000). The association relies on donations for 70 percent of its funding.     

    shortages, cancer treatment, medications, sanctions, European Union, Syria, Damascus
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