By Laila Maher Soudi, Raed Saleh and Ahmad Tarakji
Today, more than 250,000 Syrians remain trapped in besieged eastern Aleppo with limited access to food, clean water and medical supplies. Living under constant aerial bombardment, residents in the eastern part of the city have nowhere to go. Eastern Aleppo is expected to run out of food and medical supplies in 20 days or less, after which we risk losing more than a quarter-million people to mass starvation and restricted access to lifesaving medical care.
Of the quarter of a million people stuck in Aleppo, 100,000 are children. These children cannot eat or sleep without incapacitating fear. Every day, they experience unparalleled levels of trauma and anxiety, making them an especially vulnerable group with only 29 doctors remaining to care for them and their families. Our doctors are faced with the unimaginable task of having to decide which child to save and which to let die due to the severe shortage of medical supplies and staff. Furthermore, we do not have the infrastructure in place to provide those who survive with mental-health services to alleviate their severe trauma symptoms. Instead, we let them leave our hospitals in anguish and despair, knowing we helped rescue them from underneath the rubble and provided medical care for them in our hospitals but also knowing we cannot alleviate their fear. We are all afraid. We work knowing that the next child we help may be our own.
Our children in Syria deserve a better future. They deserve dignified medical and mental-health care. They deserve to go to school and play with their friends without fear.
We have to work together immediately to help the people of Aleppo. This is not a divisive political appeal to a single party; the White Helmets affirms its stance to help everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation inside Syria. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) affirms the same stance to help internally displaced Syrians as well as refugees in neighboring countries and beyond receive the medical care they deserve. This appeal we are making is a human one. We are calling on the international community to stand with us now and in solidarity with the people of Aleppo.
We must all come together and place pressure on our governments to lift the siege on besieged areas especially in rural Damascus, Homs and, in line with the U.N. Security Council resolution, all other regions across Syria and allow for food and medical supplies to enter immediately. We are asking you to mobilize, place pressure on your governments and demand that the people of Syria be granted the supplies they urgently need.
Call your political representatives immediately. Organize on the streets. Demand that action be taken. We have less than 20 days, and the time to act is now. Help us help them.
Raed Saleh is head of the organization White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defense (Twitter: @SyriaCivilDef). Dr. Ahmad Tarakji is president of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). Laila Soudi works with SAMS and the psychiatry department at the Stanford University School of Medicine.