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Doctors struggle to save Syrian hospital

27 June 2014

hand in hand for syria

Life-saving: a baby is fed in the neo-natal unit at Atareb hospital

Life-saving: a baby is fed in the neo-natal unit at Atareb hospital

DOCTORS in Britain who are running a hospital in rebel-held Syria are appealing for urgent funds to prevent its closure at the end of this month.

Atareb Hospital was set up by Hand in Hand for Syria, a charity founded soon after the beginning of the conflict in 2011 by Syrians living in Britain. It is 30km from Aleppo in northern Syria - rebel-held territory which is under heavy bombardment from the government - and serves a population of 500,000.

To date, it has been funded by a European donor through a charity. The partnership with the charity has come to an end, however, and until a new partner can be found, Hand in Hand for Syria is in need of donations to keep the hospital open.

Doctors warn that the closure of Atareb would have a severe impact on the region. It operates one of the few kidney dialysis units left in northern Syria, and is one of the few centres still offering primary care.

Having started in May last year as an A&E unit, it now has 98 members of staff, mainly Syrian, and is home to specialist departments, including orthopaedics, gynaecology, and neurology. About 280 life-saving operations are carried out each month, and 32,000 injured people a year access emergency care.

"There will be real problems if Atareb closes, because although a few hospitals around the area provide surgery and treament for the wounded, there is very little access to other treatments," said Talaat Atassi, a consultant orthopaedic and trauma surgeon at Salford Royal Foundation NHS Trust in Manchester, on Tuesday. Mr Atassi was born in Syria, but has lived in Britain since 1998. Part of Hand in Hand's executive team, he helped to set up the hospital in Atareb, training staff and treating patients, and still visits regularly.

"Half of the Syrian hospitals which existed pre-conflict are damaged or closed, and primary care access has become very poor," he said. "Atareb is one of the few hospitals still offering this."

The latest data from the Syrian government reports that 64 per cent of public hospitals and 38 per cent of public health-care centres are either damaged or out of service.

www.handinhandforsyria.org.uk/

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