22 Oct 2013 15:00
Arsal, a Lebanese border city with Syria, is a haven for the more than 12,000 Syrians who fled the fighting of the region of Qalamoun recently. Inside a building under construction in the small city, which today hosts more Syrians than Lebanese, the Union of Syrian Organizations of Medical Aid (UOSSM) organizes a formation on war medicine for 32 Syrian doctors and nurses every month.
In October, most of the trainees were originated from Qusayr, Syria, where they had to treat patients in clandestine clinics, hidden from the eyes of the Syrian authorities. Some were imprisoned and others tortured because they were treating civilians in secret. When the city was taken by the Syrian regime in summer 2013, they had to flee to Arsal, where they built a hospital inside of a mosque. There, they began to cure the injured from Qusayr, before being overwhelmed by the injured from the region of Qalamoun, the new epicentre of the Syrian civil war.
Between the 28th of November and the 3rd of December, half of the doctors and nurses who attended the formation were coming from Qalamoun. Some had lost their parents, other their children. But all were determined to learn the vital techniques to cure in the conditions of violence and shortage. Once trained and back in Syria, they will reproduce what they learned and train the rare doctors and nurses who still treat civilians among the ruins of Syria.
In the midst of a war where humanitarian right is seldom respected and where doctors are considered as targets by the Syrian regime, Raphaël Pitti, a former French war doctor and founder of the UOSSM, decided to organize formations of war medicine in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, to teach to local doctors how to save lives in conditions of war. Today, 300 doctors and 350 nurses have been trained by the UOSSM. In the rebel areas of Syria, where international NGOs have no access, they remain the only people who can still save lives... at the risk of their own.