Thursday, February 16, 2017

Children of a lesser humanity

A devastating air strike did not rob Omran Daqneesh of his childhood and his innocence, and almost his fledgling life. What did was shocking indifference and lack of compassion from a world that doesn't care about Syria's humanitarian crisis and its mounting collateral toll, especially its war-ravaged women and children.

The five-year-old boy, who became just another statistically horrific face of the Syrian conflict, outraged people around the world. But to what end?

© Aleppo Media Centre
After rescuers pulled him out from under the rubble of a bombed-out building in Aleppo that was once his home, he was deposited on a chair inside the ambulance (probably for a photo op) — dazed, alone, scared, and gingerly feeling the blood and dust on his cherubic face.

Rescuers said Omran appeared stunned and in trauma, naturally, but he didn't cry. He just sat there, next to two other wounded children, under the stark white light of the ambulance.

Someday Omran will ask—"Why me? What did I do?" He will get no answers.

Hopefully, someone hugged the kid after doctors attended to his injuries and made sure he was okay. That's what he needed, to be held with tenderness and comforted, and assured that everything was going to be all right. Even if it wasn't.

The boy survived and apparently so did his parents and siblings. But will other kids be as lucky?

"No one and nowhere is safe. Shell-fire is constant, with houses, schools and hospitals all in the line of fire. People live in a state of fear. Children have been traumatised. The scale of the suffering is immense. For four years, the people of Aleppo have been devastated by brutal war, and it is only getting worse for them. This is beyond doubt one of the most devastating urban conflicts in modern times," said Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He described the battle for the Syrian city as "one of the most devastating conflicts in modern times."

Dr Zaher Sahloul, a critical care physician from Chicago who has worked in Aleppo and seen the horrific effects of airstrikes, pricked the world's collective conscience when he told The Guardian, "They are not dolls to cry over and then move on. That is the worst thing, everyone is looking at these pictures, but who will do anything?"

Shedding tears for the wounded and traumatised children of Syria is not enough. "All of us can help by advocating on behalf of the doctors and their patients, refusing to accept their suffering is normal, even if the world can sometimes seem inured to Syria's pain. Every life is precious. Omran has reminded us all of the terrible suffering of the children caught up in this war. Let us not forget them again," Dr Sahloul said.

For the children of Syria, survival and lifelong scars could be a fate worse than death.

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