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Doctor Describes Humanitarian 'Nightmare' In Syria

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A new report from the United Nations estimates that 40 percent of Syria’s population now needs humanitarian aid. And there are growing concerns about a recent polio outbreak and about the rise of hunger, in a middle class country that’s never had to deal with that issue.

Dr. Brian D’Cruz, a Virginia-based emergency physician, just returned from spending two months in Idlib province in northern Syria with Doctors Without Borders.

He describes what he saw for Here & Now’s Robin Young.

“The humanitarian system is a nightmare. Their medical system has entirely collapsed,” he said.

Interview Highlights: Dr. Brian D’Cruz

On the state of Syria’s medical system

“The humanitarian situation is a nightmare. Their medical system has entirely collapsed. People are exposed to conflict and injuries from the war, and a whole spectrum of diseases that they haven’t seen before. People with chronic diseases have essentially no access to follow-up care, and those with emergency needs have almost nowhere to go.”

On mental illness

“Besides the preexisting complaints — people with depression and schizophrenia and mental illness who couldn’t find counseling, couldn’t find medications — there were also people traumatized by the war. When we would ask children to draw for us, they would most often draw bombs and planes and collapsing buildings. It’s become so much a part of the culture that people exist in a state of constant stress.”

On local support for doctors and patients

“Where we worked, there was an extraordinarily strong sense of community. We had terrible events happen — mass casualties, where we’d get 20 or 30 patients at a time. But it was incredible to see how local people came together.”

“You had people bringing candy and cookies to children that were injured, and people who just heard what had happened would come to the hospital and offer to carry stretchers and walk people around and help get supplies for the people who needed them. In the midst of a terrible situation, it was very impressive to see the spirit of people.”


  • Dr. Brian D’Cruz, Virginia-based ER doctor.
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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