Hospitals are struggling to keep intensive care equipment running, leaving the parents of vulnerable children with nowhere to turn to.

Salma Salqene was born with a weak immune system and respiratory problems that require round-the-clock care to keep her alive.

But between the threat of regime bombardment in Syria’s Idlib province and a lack of resources in hospitals, getting adequate care is all but impossible.

The newborn requires an incubator but can only use one for a few hours each day because of the lack of medical equipment.

Doctors say that there are more urgent cases than hers and they have to prioritise who needs treatment first.

Her situation is stable for now, but the situation is precarious. Any sudden illness or infection could leave the month-old child fighting for her life again.

“The doctors said it is better if she stays in the incubator for a full recovery,” her father, Moustafa, told TRT World.

“I am looking to take my baby to another hospital. She might have a medical emergency soon, where will I go then?”

The 29-year-old and his pregnant wife fled their hometown of Kafr Nabbouda when the regime’s all-out assault on the rebel-held territory began in April.

The stress helped induce the pregnancy early and Salma was born more than a month before her due date.

When her mother went into labour, Moustafa was faced with the dilemma of choosing whether the birth should happen at home or in a hospital. The fear of going to the latter stemmed from the Assad regime’s targeting of medical centres in the region.

Children in incubators in northern Syria
Children in incubators in northern Syria (Mohamad Krks / TRTWorld)

Eventually Moustafa decided on having the birth at home but his wife’s heavy loss of blood forced him to go to the hospital.

“I will never forget,” he recalled: “I thought I was about to lose both of them, thank God they’re alive.”

But like other Syrians, the future remains fraught with uncertainty. The fears about airstrikes are constant, as is the anxiety that his daughter’s life is constantly at risk.

Assad regime offensive

Since Assad launched his offensive in Idlib and the surrounding rebel areas, hundreds of thousands have fled for safety further to the north, and hundreds, including civilians, have died.

The casualties are hard enough to keep a track of without including the psychological and hidden impact on the vulnerable, such as those who are pregnant.

Like Salma’s mother, Laila Mossa also had to deal with an early pregnancy brought on by the regime bombardment.

The 27-year-old mother of four fled her home in rural Idlib while eight months pregnant after intense bombardment by the Assad regime.

The shock sent her into labour and doctors were unable to deliver naturally due to the risk to both the mother and child, resulting in a caesarean section.

Like Salma, Laila Mossa’s child was born in poor health with doctors recommending that he be kept in incubation for 15 weeks.

A nurse feeds a child in care
A nurse feeds a child in care (Mohamad Krks / )

Following the doctors’ recommendation proved difficult. Almost immediately after the birth, rumours began spreading that the hospital was about to be bombed.

The family was in no mood to take the chance and decided to flee.

“Because of the bombs, we’ve had to change hospitals, we keep shifting from one hospital to another to get him the care he needs,” Mossa told TRT World. “I have no idea how he will be growing up, whether he will have disabilities or illnesses because of his current situation.”

Impact of war

According to Dr Khaled al Hor, a medical professional working in the Idlib area, doctors and nurses have struggled to provide a basic level of care to vulnerable children because of the Assad regime military campaigns.

He said typically patients require around 13 weeks of intensive care to protect them from allergies and infections, and in the case of premature children, to allow their organs to develop. 

He also described some factors exacerbating the poor prenatal conditions in northern Syria, including poor nutrition, limited access to care during pregnancy, and the impact of maternal stress - brought on by war -  on gestating babies. 

“The majority of babies are receiving the medical care they need, but it is not at the level usually required,” he said.

He explained that in some cases babies had to be swapped out of incubators depending on the severity of their illness, and that there were cases of two children sharing the same incubator.

“We need more medical facilities and equipment to help the incredible number of (sick) children across northern Syria,” he added. 

Source: TRT World