The 5-Year-Old Girl Who Opened the World’s Eyes to Yemen’s Plight

08-09-2017 | 12:23

In a hospital room in Yemen, well-wishers sing songs and play the guitar for five-year-old Buthaina. She smiles and tears begin to drop from her eyes. She then picks up her crayons and draws a sketch of her family.

 

Buthaina al-Raimi

Buthaina Muhammad Mansour al-Raimi is the sole survivor in her immediate family after an airstrike destroyed an apartment building in Yemen’s capital on August 25, according to Yemen’s human rights ministry and information ministry. The group also says the attack killed 16 people, including Buthaina’s parents and five siblings.

Buthaina, now in the care of her aunt and uncle, her new guardians, doesn’t know that yet. None of her relatives or doctors have told her.Dramatic photographs published after the strike showed Buthaina being pulled from the rubble, her eyes sealed shut by bruises.

Shortly after, local media tried to interview her while she was on her hospital bed. Buthaina tried to force one of her eyes open to see who was speaking to her.

Little did Buthaina know that the tiny gesture would turn into a symbol of Yemen’s plight.

 

         

    

  

 

Buthaina al-Raimi

The photograph capturing the moment prompted a powerful social-media campaign, highlighting the country’s humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of tweets showed pictures of people mimicking Buthaina’s gesture around multiple hashtags.

A fractured skull 

At her hospital room this week, Buthaina is surrounded by relatives and well-wishers. The walls are decorated with children’s drawings and balloons cover the ground.

Doctors say Buthaina has a fractured skull and many bruises to her body. Her uncle says they don’t know when she will be discharged from the hospital.

The young girl’s cousins try to entertain her with dolls. Buthaina, her rumpled curly hair tied in a ponytail, sits at the center of the gathering.

“She lost her entire family. It’s been 10 days since they died and she still asks her uncle when her parents will visit her,” Yasser al-Ghori, head of the emergency department of the hospital treating Buthaina, told CNN.

Buthaina al-Raimi

“I can never replace Buthaina’s father but she is my daughter now and will be forever. We hope our loss will lead to the end of the nearly three-year war that devastated Yemen and killed thousands of innocent children,” Ali al-Raimi, Buthaina’s uncle and guardian, told CNN.

Since March 2015, the UN Human Rights Office has documented some 13,829 civilian casualties, including more than 5,000 people killed.

Late at night, Buthaina wakes up screaming and crying, said her aunt Samah al-Raimi, who has been sleeping next to her. The woman added that she has trouble knowing whether the source of Buthaina’s anguish is physical pains or bad dreams about the deadly night.

“Buthaina is a priority to me and I give her double personal time, compared to my daughter Sumayya. That is still not enough because the tragedy she went through cannot be forgotten, not now, not forever,” Samah al-Raimi told CNN.

The ongoing Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen has prompted a string of humanitarian crises. According to UNICEF, a child dies every 10 minutes in the war-torn country from preventable causes like diarrhea, breathing infections and malnutrition.

UNICEF has also dubbed Yemen home to “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” as well as the world’s biggest cholera outbreak, with over 600,000 cases of suspected cholera recorded by the World Health Organization in just four months.

‘Technical mistake’ 

But the bombings are also taking a horrific toll. During the same week of the airstrike that killed Buthaina’s family, the United Nations estimates that 58 civilians were killed in airstrikes, including 42 in bombings by the Saudi-led coalition. That death toll is higher than in the entire month of July, which saw 57 civilian deaths.

Saudi Arabia has acknowledged the deadly airstrike and said it resulted from a “technical mistake,” according to a statement from the state-run Saudi Press Agency on August 25.

The attack flattened two buildings in Sanaa’s southern district of Faj Attan, amid escalating violence in the war-torn country.

A Saudi-led coalition spokesman expressed “deep sorrow for this unintentional accident and for the collateral damage among civilians.”

Buthaina’s supporters in Yemen say they hope that the girl’s pain will open the eyes of the rest of the world to a war that has gone unnoticed by far too many for far too long.

CNN’s Sarah El Sirgany contributed to this report.

Source: CNN, Edited by website team

 

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‘It’s a Slow Death’: The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis

Shuaib Almosawa, Ben Hubbard, Troy Griggs

After two and a half years of war, little is functioning in Yemen.

Cholera in Yemen


Repeated bombings crippled bridges, hospitals and factories. Many doctors and civil servants have gone unpaid for more than a year. Malnutrition and poor sanitation have made the Middle Eastern country vulnerable to diseases that most of the world has confined to the history books.

In just three months, cholera has killed nearly 2,000 people and infected more than a half million, one of the world’s largest outbreaks in the past 50 years.

“It’s a slow death,” said Yakoub al-Jayefi, a Yemeni soldier who has not collected a salary in eight months, and whose 6-year-old daughter, Shaima, was being treated for malnutrition at a clinic in the Yemeni capital, Sana.

Since the family’s savings ran out, they had lived mostly off milk and yogurt from neighbors. But that was not enough to keep his daughter healthy, and her skin went pale as she grew thin.

Like more than half of Yemenis, the family did not have immediate access to a working medical center, so Mr. Jayefi borrowed money from friends and relatives to take his daughter to the capital.

“We’re just waiting for doom or for a breakthrough from heaven,” he said.
How did a country in a region with such great wealth fall so far and so fast into crisis?

A Collapsed State

Many coalition airstrikes have killed and wounded civilians, including strikes on Wednesday around the capital. The bombings have also heavily damaged Yemen’s infrastructure, including a crucial seaport and important bridges as well as hospitals, sewage facilities and civilian factories.

 

Yemen


Services that Yemenis have depended on are gone, and the destruction has undermined the country’s already weak economy. It has also made it harder for humanitarian organizations to bring in and distribute aid.

The Saudi-led coalition has also kept Sana’s international airport closed to civilian air traffic for more than a year, meaning that merchants cannot fly goods in, and sick and wounded Yemenis cannot fly abroad for treatment. Many of them have died.

Neither of Yemen’s two competing administrations has paid regular salaries to many civil servants in over a year, impoverishing their families as there is little other work to be found. Among those affected are professionals whose work is essential to dealing with the crisis, like doctors, nurses and sewage system technicians, leading to the near collapse of their sectors.

The Devastation of Cholera

Damage from the war has turned Yemen into a fertile environment for cholera, a bacterial infection spread by water contaminated with feces. As garbage has piled up and sewage systems have failed, more Yemenis are relying on easily polluted wells for drinking water. Heavy rains since April accelerated the wells’ contamination.

 

Cholera in Yemen


In developed countries, cholera is not life-threatening and can be easily treated, with antibiotics if severe. But in Yemen, rampant malnutrition has made many people, particularly children, especially vulnerable to the disease.

“With the malnutrition we have among children, if they get diarrhea, they are not going to get better,” said Meritxell Relano, the United Nations Children’s Fund representative in Yemen.

Outside a cholera clinic in Sana, Muhammad Nasir was waiting for news about his 6-month-old son, Waleed, who had the disease. A poor agricultural laborer, Mr. Nasir had borrowed money to take his son to the hospital but did not have enough to return home even if the baby recovered. “My situation is bad,” he said.

Five tents had been erected in the backyard of the cholera ward to cope with the sudden increase in patients. All day, families brought sick relatives. Most were elderly, or children carried on their parents’ backs.

If infection numbers continue to rise, researchers fear that the cases could ultimately rival the largest outbreak, in Haiti, which infected at least 750,000 people after a devastating earthquake in 2010.

Aid organizations say they cannot replace the services that the government is supposed to provide. That means there is little chance for significant improvements unless the war ends.

 

Yemen


“We are almost in the third year of the war and nothing is getting better,” said Ms. Relano of UNICEF. “There are limits to what we can do in such a collapsed state.”

The United Nations has called the situation the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with more than 10 million people who require immediate assistance. And the situation could become even worse.

Peter Salama, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, warned that as the state fails, “the manifestation of that now is cholera, but there could be in the future other epidemics that Yemen could be at the center of.”

Source: The New York Times, Edited by website team

24-08-2017 | 13:16

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EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN IN PROPAGANDA WAR AGAINST SYRIA CONTINUES

Still image from a video being filmed in Egypt, purporting to be in Aleppo, Syria.

In December 2016, filmmakers in Egypt were arrested in the process of staging an Aleppo video with two children: the girl was meant to look injured, and the boy was to vilify both Russia and Syria.

Even the corporate media reported on it, including: “The girl’s dress, covered in red paint, was what caught the attention of a police officer driving by, the ministry said.”

The incidences of fakery and hoaxes, however, does not end there.

Also in December, the scene of a ‘Girl running to survive after her family had been killed’ was said to be in Aleppo. In reality, it was a scene from a Lebanese music video, which someone at some point clearly chose to depict as in Aleppo, for the same anti-Russian, anti-Assad vilification purposes.

In November 2014, a clip dubbed ‘Syrian hero boy’ went viral, viewed over 5 million times already by mid-November. The clip showed what appeared to be a little boy saving his sister from sniper gunfire, and was assumed to have been in Syria.

The Telegraph’s Josie Ensor didn’t wait for any sort of verification of the video which she cited as having been uploaded on November 10, the next day writing: “…it is thought the incident took place in Yabroud – a town near the Lebanese border which was the last stronghold of the moderate Free Syrian Army. Experts tell the paper they have no reason to doubt its authenticity. The UN has previously accused the Syrian regime of ‘crimes against humanity’ – including the use of snipers against small children.”

On November 14, the BBC brought on ‘Middle East specialist’ Amira Galal to give her expert opinion on the clip. She asserted: “We can definitely say that it is Syria, and we can definitely say that it’s probably on the regime frontlines. We see in the footage that there is a barrel, it’s painted on it the Syrian army flag.”

Once again, the so-called ‘experts’ got it wrong. The barrel which Galal referred to had a poor imitation of the flag of Syria painted on it, the flag’s color sequence out of order. The clip she was so certain had been filmed in government areas of Syria was actually produced in Malta by Norwegian filmmakers.

From Video to Twitter Hoaxes

In the propaganda war on Syria, there are convincing lies, and then there are the blindingly clear hoaxes. In the latter realm, the Bana al-Abed Twitter persona takes first prize. The child is being abused by her own family who have seemingly forced her to pretend she can speak English (she cannot).

*Twitter link here

We were meant to believe that sophisticated and nuanced tweets, often calling for Western intervention, are coming from an English-illiterate seven-year-old girl or her mother — whose husband was a militant in Aleppo.

In a detailed article, Barbara McKenzie looks at the campaign which uses the brand Bana for war propaganda. An excerpt includes:

“Bana, the little girl supposedly tweeting from Aleppo, but actually the front for an account run from London, was selected to be the empathetic face of the campaign for a no-fly zone in Syria. Her account was tailored to create the impression of perpetual bombing, perpetual war crimes, on the part of Russia and the Syrian government.”

Bana not only tweeted with impossible frequency from eastern Aleppo, defying any internet lapses those of us who have gone to Aleppo have experienced. Whatever the actual explanation for her alleged preciousness and high-tech abilities, the child was clearly exploited, and continues to be.

Her twitter account continues its advocacy for Western intervention in Syria. Not at all suspicious.

Real Poster Children Brutally Beheaded, Sniped, Starved, Maimed

Effective war propaganda tugs at the heart strings, using many tactics, including adorable children in threatening situations, or dead, and comes hand in hand with condemnations for crimes committed, allegedly, by the villain(s) being caricatured. In the following instances, children being injured or murdered did occur, but the condemnations were muted or not at all.

A few weeks prior to the photo of Omran Daqneesh going viral as the poster child for suffering in Syria, terrorists of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki faction beheaded a boy said to be around 12 years old.

Although the decapitators filmed the entire savage act, posing for gleeful selfies as they tortured the boy prior to murdering him, leaders and media in the US took little notice of the horrific slaughter. Ten days after the questionable events which led to the light injury of Omran, two young boys in the Idlib villages of Foua and Kafraya were shot in their head and neck respectively by a sniper from Jaysh al-Fateh terrorists in the village of Binnish close by. The injuries were serious. They were rendered even more serious given that the villages had been completely surrounded and fully under siege by terrorists since March 2015.

In April 2017, a convoy of children, women, elderly and ill being evacuated from Foua were attacked by a terrorist explosion, with reports over 200 murdered, including 116 children. The attack included luring with potato chips and filming children in the convoy before later blowing them up and claiming to be rescuing them. Not only did these terrorists murder civilians and children, but they staged the scene to then look like heroes.

Indeed, in the West this massacre was called a “hiccup” and little denunciation was made about the vast numbers of dead, let alone the injured.

In October, 2016, Press TV was one of the few outlets to report on another adorable Aleppo boy, Mahmoud, “a six-year-old Syrian boy who was born without arms, and recently lost both of his legs after stepping on a mine planted by militants in Syria’s Aleppo.” The report includes scenes of Mahmoud showing his resilience, adjusting to life without any limbs. But for corporate media, Mahmoud’s were the wrong villains.

Terrorist bombings and snipings have killed children in schools and homes throughout Syria over the years, including the October 2014 terrorist car and suicide bombing of the Akrama Al-Makhzoumi School in Homs, killing at least 41 children by conservative estimates, or up to 48 children by other reports, along with women and other civilians, as well as attacks on Aleppo schools, as I detailed earlier.

In Aleppo and in Damascus, I have visited numerous hospitals and seen endless poster children of suffering in Syria. The differences between these children and those which Western and Gulf media present us, is that these children were murdered, rendered critically-injured, or maimed by the bombs, mortars and snipings of terrorists which the West presents as “moderate rebels”, so their stories will never be front page, much less heard.

The Bitter Truth

The Western and Gulf media work in lockstep with the narratives emanating from Washington on Syria. It is not coincidental that certain photos and stories of Syrian children go viral, while other more damning photos and sordid realities get no notice period.

*Twitter link here

Regarding the Omran case, we now know that he was not gravely hurt as media tried to imply, that his family have gone back to their lives in Aleppo, and the exploitation and lies around Omran cannot continue.

When I met them on June 6th, they showed no signs of the duress which terrorists and their backers—which include Western corporate media—claim. Instead, some neighbors were over, discussing media fabrications around Omran.

However, the children who are believed to have been exploited and used in the 2013 Ghouta chemical weapons fabrications remain missing and have not gone back to their lives, nor have their families in the Latakia countryside.

In March 2017, physicians with Swedish Doctors for Human Rights, after examining a White Helmet’s video, wrote:

“…Swedish medical doctors, specialists in various fields, including pediatrics, have revealed that the life-saving procedures seen in the film are incorrect – in fact life-threatening – or seemingly fake, including simulated resuscitation techniques being used on already lifeless children.”

The article noted that Dr Lena Oske, a Swedish medical doctor and general practitioner, said of an adrenaline injection shown in the video, “If not already dead, this injection would have killed the child!”

While in al-Waer, Homs, on June 9, 2017, speaking with a woman who had returned not long after the last terrorist had been bused out in the government’s reconciliation agreement, she told me a story of her friend from the area. Bearing in mind that this is second hand information (and that I didn’t have time to stay another day to meet the friend in question), I’ll leave her words and this 2012 link as food for thought regarding the use of children, alive or day, for war propaganda against Syria:

“In 2014, my friend’s son, Louay was leaving his school. A mortar fell on the street nearby and he was hit with shrapnel. The Red Crescent took him in an ambulance to al-Bour, a nearby aid association, which couldn’t treat him, so he was taken to a government hospital in al-Zahra’a. They tried to save him, but he died.

They took him back to al-Bour where they cleaned him for burial. While my friend was waiting, people from al-Bour carried him onto the street yelling the regime killed him, look what the regime does to children.’”

Later, she saw on both al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya footage of her son, with men blaming the “regime” for killing children in Syria.

But she didn’t agree. The government helped her son and tried to save his life. He was 7 years old.

RELATED:

Meet Aylan & Omran: Child victims used for Syrian war propaganda, Jun 12, 2017, RT Op-Edge

MintPress Meets The Father Of Iconic Aleppo Boy, Who Says Media Lied About His Son, Jun 9, 2017, MintPress News

CNN #FakeNews Amanpour Challenged to Interview Aleppo Boy’s Father – #NewWorldNextWeek, Jun 15, 2017, The Corbett Report

Yemen Images Saudi Arabia Doesn’t Want You To See

Batool Ali is six years old, though you would never guess that from her huge, haunted eyes and emaciated frame. Ribs jutting out over her distended belly, Batool weighs less than 16 kilograms (35 pounds). She is one of nearly half a million children in Yemen suffering from severe malnutrition.

Posted June 24, 2017

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Click for Spanish, German, Dutch, Danish, French, translation- Note- Translation may take a moment to load.

Israel Tutors Children in Fear and Loathing

Nazareth

A display of Israeli-style community policing before an audience of hundreds of young schoolchildren was captured on video last week. Were the 10-year-olds offered road safety tips, advice on what to do if they got lost, or how to report someone suspicion hanging around the school?

No. In Israel, they do things differently. The video shows four officers staging a mock anti-terror operation in a park close to Tel Aviv. The team roar in on motorbikes, firing their rifles at the “terrorist”.

As he lies badly wounded, the officers empty their magazines into him from close range. In Israel it is known as “confirming the kill”. Everywhere else it is called an extrajudicial execution or murder. The children can be heard clapping.

It was an uncomfortable reminder of a near-identical execution captured on film last year. A young army medic, Elor Azaria, is seen shooting a bullet into the head of an incapacitated Palestinian in Hebron. A military court sentenced him to 18 months for manslaughter in February.

There has been little sign of soul-searching since. Most Israelis, including government officials, call Azaria a hero. In the recent religious festival of Purim, dressing up as Azaria was a favourite among children.

There is plenty of evidence that Israel’s security services are still regularly executing real Palestinians.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem denounced the killing last week of a 16-year-old Jerusalem schoolgirl, Fatima Hjeiji, in a hail of bullets. She had frozen to the spot after pulling out a knife some distance from a police checkpoint. She posed no threat, concluded B’Tselem, and did not need to be killed.

The police were unrepentant about their staged execution, calling it “a positive, empowering” demonstration for the youngsters. The event was hardly exceptional.

In communities across Israel this month, the army celebrated Israel’s Independence Day by bringing along its usual “attractions” – tanks, guns and grenades – for children to play with, while families watched army dogs sicking yet more “terrorists”.

In a West Bank settlement, meanwhile, the army painted youngsters’ arms and legs with shrapnel wounds. Blood-like liquid dripped convincingly from dummies with amputated limbs. The army said the event was a standard one that “many families enjoyed”.

The purpose of exposing children at an impressionable age to so much gore and killing is not hard to divine. It creates traumatised children, distrustful and fearful of anyone outside their tribe. That way they become more pliant soldiers, trigger-happy as they rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories.

A few educators have started to sense they are complicit in this emotional and mental abuse.

Holocaust Memorial Day, marked in Israeli schools last month, largely avoids universal messages, such as that we must recognise the humanity of others and stand up for the oppressed. Instead, pupils as young as three are told the Holocaust serves as a warning to be eternally vigilant – that Israel and its strong army are the only things preventing another genocide by non-Jews.

Last year Zeev Degani, principal of one Israel’s most prestigious schools, caused a furore when he announced his school would no longer send pupils on annual trips to Auschwitz. This is a rite of passage for Israeli pupils. He called the misuse of the Holocaust “pathological” and intended to “generate fear and hatred” to inculcate extreme nationalism.

It is not by accident that these trips – imparting the message that a strong army is vital to Israel’s survival – take place just before teenagers begin a three-year military draft.

Increasingly, they receive no alternative messages in school. Degani was among the few principals who had been inviting Breaking the Silence, a group of whistle-blowing soldiers, to discuss their part in committing war crimes.

In response, the education minister, Naftali Bennett, leader of the settlers’ party, has barred dissident groups like Breaking the Silence. He has also banned books and theatre trips that might encourage greater empathy with those outside the tribe.

Polls show this is paying off. Schoolchildren are even more ultra-nationalist than their parents. More than four-fifths think there is no hope of peace with the Palestinians.

But these cultivated attitudes don’t just sabotage peacemaking. They also damage any chance of Israeli Jews living peacefully with the large minority of Palestinian citizens in their midst.

Half of Jewish schoolchildren believe these Palestinians, one in five of the population, should not be allowed to vote in elections. This month the defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called the minority’s representatives in parliament “Nazis” and suggested they should share a similar fate.

This extreme chauvinism was translated last week into legislation that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people around the world, not its citizens. The Palestinian minority are effectively turned into little more than resident aliens in their own homeland.

Degani and others are losing the battle to educate for peace and reconciliation. If a society’s future lies with its children, the outlook for Israelis and Palestinians is bleak indeed.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

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“ZEINAB, SHE WAS FORCED TO WATCH THE MASSACRE OF 116 CHILDREN”–VANESSA BEELEY ON TERRORISTS’ MASSACRE OF FOUA KAFRAYA CIVILIANS

In Gaza

Apr 21, 2017, UK Column News

21st Century Wire’s Vanessa Beeley speaks to Mike Robinson about the recent murder of children enticed off a bus with the promise of food. This was the most obscene war crime and brings the conflict in Syria to a new low.

At the centre of it all are Boris Johnson sponsored White Helmets. Please share this video, and with a general election in the UK, ask some hard questions of all prospective MPs.

Read more here:

RASHIDEEN MASSACRE: Children Lured to their Slaughter by NATO State Terrorists

21st Century Wire says…

On April 15th 2017, the people of Kafarya and Foua were attacked, their children mown down deliberately, by a suicide bomb or expolosive detonation, that targeted these innocent children who had been lured to their deaths by NATO and Gulf state terrorists, including Ahrar al Sham and Nusra Front (Al Qaeda). Mothers had to watch from behind the windows of the buses they had been imprisoned in for 48 hours, while strangers, terrorists, picked up their children, their wounded, bleeding, mutilated children, and piled them up in the backs of trucks and Turkish ambulances before driving them away from the horrific scene and stealing them from their distraught, powerless mothers.

Zeinab

“This is Zeinab, she was forced to watch the massacre of 116 children through the windows of a bus while the NATO and Gulf state terrorists, collected the dead, dying and mutilated bodies of her community’s children and flung them in the back of trucks and Turkish ambulances, before driving them to Turkey. She has 10 members of her family still missing. She has no idea where they are.

She gave her courageous and emotional testimony to us in Jebrin registration centre, where the survivors of the 15th April, suicide bomb attack, were taken for shelter after this horrific event, described by CNN as a “hiccup”.

I speak about part of her testimony with RT yesterday who also used my interviews in their news feed. Unlike corporate media, RT investigate these atrocities and honour the voices of the Syrian people.

Telegraph
The Telegraph edited out this appalling and callous phrasing immediately after the RT interview.

The Telegraph described the dead Syrian babies as “Syrian Government supporters” in an attempt to whitewash the UK Regime terrorist crimes by proxy and to erase the existence of these innocent children from our consciousness..by the familiar dehumanization process that we have witnessed every time the various NATO and Gulf state extremist carry out mass murder of Syrian civilians.” ~ Vanessa Beeley

(Photo: Tommy Bergset Solvedt)

IMG_5174
Bombed out remains of one of the buses that had been carrying evacuated civilians from Kafarya and Foua to Rashideen holding centre. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Vanessa Beeley, associate editor at 21st Century Wire, was present at the scene and provided video footage of the witness and survivor testimony to RT for use in the news section. She also spoke to RT about the heartbreaking accounts given to her by Zeinab, a mother, from these besieged Idlib villages of Kafarya and Foua, who had seen the carnage and who still has 10 missing relatives, who were taken to Turkey by the waiting ambulances.  A full report, and subtitled video will follow shortly, when internet and time allows, but for now, here is the report from RT and the interview at the end of the report.

For more details on Kafarya and Foua please read Eva Bartlett’s article: The Children of Kafarya and Foua are Crying in the Dark

RT Report:

Terrorists lured evacuees out of buses with snacks before blast – Aleppo attack witnesses:

Eyewitnesses to the bomb attack on a refugee convoy near Aleppo that killed dozens of children said the militants lured people out of the vehicles with snacks before the explosion, and also stopped them from escaping the blast site.

A powerful explosion hit several buses full of people leaving militant-held towns and villages outside Aleppo last Saturday, killing over 100 people, including dozens of children, and injuring scores more.

Following the attack, Vanessa Beeley of the 21st Century Wire website gathered first-hand accounts from those who survived the assault. People told her that the militants did their utmost to increase the death toll. The exclusive videos she provided to RT shed more light on the incident.

“Just before the explosion, a strange car got from the militants’ checkpoint. They said they were bringing snacks for children,” the bus driver who was in the convoy said.

“Then they got out of the car and started shouting, ‘Who has children? Who has children?’”

The driver said the militants knew for sure that the children “haven’t seen biscuits and crisps for so long” as they were under siege. “People have been stuck in buses for 48 hours as the rebels didn’t let us out,” he noted. A woman said that she and other evacuees were held in the buses “like prisoners,” adding that they were only allowed to get out and stretch 10 minutes before the explosion.

Many people, including children, left the buses and approached the car when the blast hit the convoy.

One of evacuees said that the militants “were throwing potato chips on the site of the future blast. One of the terrorists said that it was food for the infidels.”

The driver recalled that “there were Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra [Al-Nusra Front], and some factions of the Free Syrian Army [FSA]…”

According to another witness, “the Ahrar ash-Sham fighters didn’t hide their faces, while Jabhat al-Nusra were always wearing masks. One could only see their eyes,” one of the eyewitnesses said.

WARNING:Graphic and distressing footage from the attack ~

There were many foreigners among the terrorists – “Uzbeks, Turks, people from Chechnya, Saudis and Qataris. One could judge on their appearance; their language,” another evacuee added.

“When the blast rocked the area, people rushed into the woods but militants surrounded them and forced back to the buses,” the bus driver said.

A female evacuee recalled that “the militants told us that terrorists from another group were shelling our buses and that we must flee towards the bushes… but then they said that the bushes were mined and found ourselves trapped.”

Another woman also told Beeley that even before the explosion, four yellow Turkish ambulances were present at the scene for some reason. After the blast, the ambulances started picking up the dead and injured, only to take them to an unknown location.

“We don’t know where they [the children] are. They’re gone. There are no bodies. We’ve searched for them, but with no result,” one of the witnesses said.

Many relatives of those missing still know nothing of their whereabouts, other witnesses said. Some people told Beeley that the controversial White Helmets were also seen at the blast site, retrieving bodies of Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham militants, but apparently leaving injured civilians.

Beeley, who has consistently covered the Syrian war, also filmed people’s testimonies about their escape from the rebel-held areas. The evacuees boarded the buses on Friday in the Rashideen neighborhood of Aleppo, but were not allowed out of the vehicles for nearly three days.

Many of them, however, were happy to leave as “this place turned into a terrorists’ hotbed,” one woman said.

[Some] international organizations have already condemned the attack on the humanitarian convoy in the strongest terms.

“We must draw from this not only anger, but renewed determination to reach all the innocent children throughout Syria with help and comfort,” said UNICEF’s executive director, Anthony Lake.

“And draw from it also the hope that all those with the heart and the power to end this war will do so.”

However, Beeley told RT that not many in the West followed the UN’s example in decrying the attack.

“We’ve just witnessed one of the most heinous crimes of our lifetime, and yet corporate… there’s no international condemnation from governments, from NGOs, from the media,” she said.

On the contrary, the media is making an attempt to “whitewash this utterly abhorrent” incident, in which, according to Beeley’s information, 116 children lost their lives.

Full video interview. Watch ~

***

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

READ MORE KAFARYA AND FOUA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Kafarya and Foua Files

READ MORE ON THE WHITE HELMETS AT: 21st Century Wire White Helmet Files

Other Related Links:

Kevork Almassian of Syriana Analysis: Video Analysis: MSM & Al-Qaeda Presstitutes Gone Disgusting Over Kafriya Massacre

-Eva Bartlett: The Children of Kafarya and Foua are Crying in the Dark

Vanessa Beeley writings on Kafraya and Foua

-Eva Bartlett: Untold Suffering in Foua and Kafraya: Two Northwestern Syrian Villages Under Siege and Assault by NATO’s Terrorists Part 1

-Eva Bartlett: Untold Suffering in Foua and Kafarya-Part 2

US Imposed Syria Sanctions Hit Children’s Cancer Treatment at Damascus Children’s Hospital

Six years of conflict have brought the Syrian health service, once one of the best in the Middle East, close to collapse

Global Research, March 25, 2017
Gulf News 25 March 2017
syrian children cancer

Damascus: In the cancer ward at Damascus Children’s Hospital, doctors are struggling with a critical shortage of specialist drugs to treat their young patients — and it’s not just due to the general chaos of the Syrian civil war.

Local and World Health Organisation (WHO) officials also blame Western sanctions for severely restricting pharmaceutical imports, even though medical supplies are largely exempt from measures imposed by the United States and European Union.

Six years of conflict have brought the Syrian health service, once one of the best in the Middle East, close to collapse. Fewer than half of the country’s hospitals are fully functioning and numbers of doctors have dived.

The result is tumbling life expectancy — even after accounting for the hundreds of thousands directly killed in the fighting — and soaring deaths in pregnancy and childbirth.

On top of this, cuts in health spending by the government that is fighting a hugely expensive war, a drastic fall in the Syrian currency and indirect effects of the sanctions are all deepening the misery of patients who need foreign-made drugs.

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Children suffering from cancer at Damascus Children’s Hospital. Image credit: Reuters

For families with sick children, the situation is dire.

At the children’s hospital in government-held Damascus, the waiting room outside the cancer ward was crowded with relatives, many of whom had brought clothes, mattresses and blankets in case they had to spend long periods far from their homes outside the city.

One of them was Naim Der Moussa, 55, who has been living in Damascus for a year to secure regular treatment for his 10-year-old daughter Wa’ad. They left his wife and six other children behind in the eastern city of Deir Al Zor, where government forces are besieged by Daesh.

“My daughter was first diagnosed with kidney cancer and treated,” he said. “Now cancer has been found also in her lungs.”

Before the conflict, Syria produced 90 per cent of the medicines it needed but anti-cancer drugs were among those where it traditionally relied on imports.

Elizabeth Hoff, the WHO representative in Syria, said medicine imports have been hit by significant cuts in the government’s health budget since the war began in 2011 plus a 90 per cent drop in the value of the Syrian pound, which has made some pharmaceuticals prohibitively expensive.

However, a lack of cash is not the only reason why supplies of cancer drugs are falling far short of increasing demand.

“The impact of economic sanctions imposed on Syria heavily affected the procurement of some specific medicine including anti-cancer medicines,” said Hoff. The sanctions were preventing many international pharmaceutical companies from dealing with the Syrian authorities as well as hindering foreign banks in handling payments for imported drugs, she added.

The United States and EU have imposed a range of measures targeted both at the government and some of the many armed groups operating in the country.

Washington has banned the export or sale of goods and services to Syria from the United States or by US citizens.

The EU has imposed travel bans, asset freezes and an arms embargo, with sanctions also targeting financial ties with Syrian institutions, buying oil and gas from the country or investing in its energy industry.

President Bashar Al Assad has partly blamed the sanctions for turning many Syrians into refugees, often heading to Europe.

Both the US and EU regimes include exemptions for medicines and other humanitarian supplies. However, by clamping down on financial transactions and barring much business with the Syrian government, the sanctions are indirectly affecting trade in pharmaceuticals.

Many drugs companies have erred on the side of caution, avoiding any business with Syria for fear of inadvertently falling foul of the sanctions.

The US State Department said the Treasury had authorised services in support of humanitarian activities in Syria, adding that there were legal ways to bring medicine into the country.

The EU also rejected criticism of its sanctions.

“Such measures are not aimed at the civilian population,” an EU spokeswoman said. “EU sanctions do not apply to key sectors of the Syrian economy such as food and medicine.”

She acknowledged firms had increasingly pulled out of business with Syria but said this was also due to other reasons, including “security, reputation, commercial motivation, anti-money laundering measures” and the presence of militant groups.

The WHO brings essential medicines and medical supplies into Syria, procuring generic drugs from approved sources in Europe, North Africa and Asia. Branded US products cannot be imported due to the sanctions situation, Hoff said.

With funds from Kuwait, the WHO has delivered life-saving medicine to more than 16,000 cancer patients, of whom thousands are children with leukaemia.

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Syrian girl Rahma sits on a bed as she receives treatment for cancer at Damascus Children’s Hospital. Image Credit:Reuters

But this does not meet demand. Besides cancer medication, there are critical shortages of insulin, anaesthetics, specific antibiotics needed for intensive care, serums, intravenous fluids and other blood products and vaccines, Hoff said.

The overall collapse in Syrian health care has contributed to a drop in life expectancy to 60 years for men and 70 for women in 2014, from 72 and 75 respectively in 2009. Only 44 per cent of hospitals are now fully functioning and more than a quarter aren’t working at all, the WHO said.

By 2014, the number of doctors in Syria had dropped to 1.3 per 1,000 people, less than half the level in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.

Against this deterioration, Damascus Children’s Hospital has also come under increasing pressure. Cancer units in the provincial cities of Aleppo and Latakia were both put out of service in fighting earlier in the war.

Now about 200 children visit the Damascus hospital every week, with more than 70 per cent from outside the capital, according to its head, Maher Haddad.

The weight of demand has delayed treatment for dozens of sick children by 15-20 days, affecting their prospects, overall health and response to medication, he added.

Haddad also singled out the sanctions. Pharmex, the state-owned company that buys drugs for government-funded hospitals across Syria, was able to provide only 5-10 per cent of the cancer medication that is required, he told Reuters.

“Most of the cancer medicines are imported. Pharmex used to import the stock of medicines that public hospitals need. But it has not been able to do so largely because of the economic sanctions, I believe,” he said.

His hospital has only 36 free beds, with 17 of those allocated to children with cancer.

In the waiting room, a woman who identified herself only by her first name Nawal, said she travels from the Qalamoun area north of Damascus every fortnight with her 14-year-old daughter who requires chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia.

“We don’t have hospitals or charities in Qalamoun. Free treatment is offered only at the Children’s Hospital in Damascus,” Nawal said.

One private charity, Basma, is trying to help out by funding cancer drugs for poor families. The proportion of patients who need assistance has risen from about 30 per cent to nearly 80 per cent since the war began, executive manager Rima Salem said.

Salem finds the delays in treatment worrying.

“A child with cancer might die waiting for his turn to get treatment,” she said.

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