A Walsall Paediatric Consultant who joined other doctors to help victims of the earthquake in Syria has spoken of the “heartbreaking deprivation of resources” in the country.
Dr Rana Zoualghina, who works at Walsall Manor Hospital, used £30,000 donated through the Midland International Aid Trust to build tents, provide food packages and other medical equipment earlier this year.
“What we did is insignificant in comparison to the work required,” she said.
Dr Rana went with her husband Mahrous, a Cardiologist, initially travelling to Turkey then entering Syria from its northern border after 48 hours due to permit delays.
“I knew the situation was bad but witnessing the complete deprivation of resources was heartbreaking,” said the mother-of-four.
“Hydrocephalus (a neurological disorder caused by an abnormal buildup of fluid in the ventricles deep within the brain) was rampant among newborns. With no access to labs, infections were treated blindly; mothers and toddlers malnourished. I came across many toddlers who weighed no more than six-month-old babies.
“Infections swamped the tents, hospitals were rife with premature infant deaths and ventilators are nothing short of a miracle to come across. Sanitation was non-existent.
“The standard of care is so belittled that if we performed like this in the UK it would be deemed the grossest form of negligence. As despairing as the physical reality is, the hardworking and resilient medical staff completely stunned me in the most admirable way possible.”
Dr Rana, who met her husband in a hospital in Damascus 25 years ago, said since returning to the UK she had experienced contrasting emotions of despair and gratefulness.
She added: “It is imperative that, as Paediatricians, we advocate incessantly for the right of all children to access healthcare and nutritional support. And as people in a position of privilege we must not forget those in need of our help.”