SA Hospital Fully Functional Inside Syria

Friday - 15 March 2013

It's lunch time as we enter Darkoush City.  Today is the second anniversary of the Syrian uprising to date.  The mood is upbeat as is the beautiful spring weather; a huge contrast to the melancholia and  winter of discontent in December 2012, just three months ago.  The streets are a bee-hive of activity, more shops open, a greater sense of serenity and calmness, a greater sense of positivity as more areas fall into civilian control led by the Free Syrian Army that have repulsed Assad's troops from 3km away in December 2012 to 35km away now in March 2013 and in the process ensuring the rights of the Christian populated city of Yakubia are respected.  But the tranquility belies the underlying emotional and physical pain; almost every family has been touched by death, destruction, homelessness, displacement, injury, hunger, imprisonment, missing family members, torture, rape, abduction or the summary execution of a child.  The death toll, according to Syrians, is close to 100 000, those unjustly and unfairly imprisoned around 200 000, displaced people in the millions, homes destroyed in the thousands.  "We are back in the stone age" is the common comment among the educated class.  This is their politics, their struggle, their pain.  We cannot get involved in the politics but our humanity does not permit us to look the other way.  An effective, measured humanitarian intervention is the least we can offer because this is what we do best.  

And so here we are in Darkoush City, witnessing the realisation of a promise to a broken and oppressed people.  The Gift of the Givers South African Darkoush Hospital takes centre stage in North Syria being the only fully functional facility in a 40km radius to the west, east and south.  What we witnessed was nothing short of a miracle, awe-inspiring, Divine.  Our management team, led by Dr Ahmed Ghandoor, the chief cardiac surgeon of the region, who escaped capture and certain death from Aleppo, for daring to treat wounded civilians presumed not to be on the side of the Assad regime, converted an ordinary building into an emergency life-saving hospital in just 75 days.  What makes this feat even more amazing is the fact that the structural changes occurred during bombing, rain, winter and that everything had to be imported (ie. building material and medical equipment) in a country with no functioning economy, fuel shortage and an astronomical diesel price.  But they did it AND in the name of South Africa and South Africans.  Yes, we may have selected the building, commissioned the project, paid for it and are still paying but all credit goes to them for their tenacity, resilience and desire to serve those among them who have lost everything including hope.  "You South Africans are more brother to us than the whole Arab world put together.  How it comes (their words) you travel several thousand km and find Darkoush.  Who knows Darkoush?  This can only be from the God Almighty".  This is their sentiment.  

We have installed two theatres in this R10 million facility, an intensive care unit, casualty, maternity, laboratory, xray, echo facility, pharmacy, wards and outpatient, all fully-equipped to handle any emergency.  Air-conditioning, centralised oxygen and a generator have been connected.  The hospital has its own underground source of natural spring water.  The kitchen and laundry are still under construction to be completed within a week.  A stores facility has been set up, essential supplies have been purchased, and an ambulance has been donated to us.  A management team, including cleaners, security, nurses, doctors and other medical personnel totalling 70 permanent staff funded by us are the life blood of the hospital.  We witness the birth of the 41st baby in this hospital, this time by Caeserian section; joy wells up within us, we are associated with the giving of life and happiness.  This is the end result of South African Ubuntu; your ubuntu.  The patient count is climbing; 120 today; over 2000 already as the hospital was functional even during construction.   Women and children are the bulk with all kinds of trauma being a major contributing factor.  Hepatitis A, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, typhoid, leishmaniasis, diabetes, cardiac conditions, allergies, asthma and snake bites are common.

The excitement is soaring in Darkoush City in anticipation of the largest medical "invasion" in their history; 40 highly skilled South African medical personnel will be arriving soon to transfer skills, to serve and to save life.  Syrians are willingly giving up their homes to accommodate the teams; the news being communicated as far as Aleppo, Idlib, Hamah, Latakia and more than 100km away to send all requiring any form of surgical or non-surgical intervention to Darkoush City.  The citizens are ecstastic; in their eyes Darkoush is now the medical heart of all Syria.  Our team is too large to work in the hospital; we need an urgent alternative;  we "discover" another building today which will be utilised for maternal and child health, dentistry and general medicine. Renovations commence in 48 hours.  Two more vehicles are being purchased this coming week to add to the ambulance enabling us to dispatch mobile medical teams to thousands of refugees in a myriad villages very soon.  

To those who have made this possible we thank you for your support.  Those still wanting to participate in this project are most welcome as contributions are still being accepted.  

Contact 0800 786 911 for details.

Imtiaz Sooliman
Darkoush City
Syria

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