Ongoing Assad-Hezbollah siege complicates the humanitarian situation in Madaya

Orient Net - R. Sikora 2016-08-25 05:00:00

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In spite of vast media coverage given to Madaya earlier this year, a severe lack of food and medicine continues to result in the death of large numbers of children inside the city as the starvation siege continues to be imposed. 

For months the siege has continued to intensify on Madaya, a small resort town in the Damascus countryside whose population soared to 40,000 people after the arrival of many who were displaced from neighboring areas. 

This is because the regime and its Hezbollah allies have relied on murder and starvation as its main weapon against Madaya residents and displaced civilians who fled from death by bombing in their own cities to a slow, terrible one by starvation in Madaya. 

Although the United Nations claims to be providing aid, none has actually entered Madaya for over 100 days, and even then it was not sufficient to meet the needs of the besieged people. 

Meanwhile, the health of those trapped in the city is declining rapidly.

Only one field hospital continues to be operational and offers only modest services at best owing to the lack of medication and equipment. 

Due to the acute shortage of food and medication, many suffer from the effects of severe malnutrition and everyone suffers from weakened immune systems and vitamin deficiency.

Recently, medical personnel recorded 45 cases of typhoid fever, mostly among women and children. 

But doctors could do little to help them with no medication or antibiotics left for treating them. 

To make matters worse, two cases of what is believed to be encephalitis (brain infection) and meningitis appeared last month.  

Encephalitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the brain. The inflammation causes the brain to swell, which leads to changes in the victim’s neurological condition, including mental confusion, changes in mental status (sometimes even coma), and seizures. 

Meningitis, which is inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, often accompanies encephalitis. But Meningitis can also occur without encephalitis.

The key to treating encephalitis is early detection and treatment. A patient with encephalitis requires immediate hospitalization and close monitoring. Sometimes, depending on what doctors think the specific cause of the encephalitis is, certain medications can be used to fight infections that may cause it.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the swelling in the head and to prevent other related complications. Medications to control the infection, seizures, fever, or other conditions may be used.

Even if the patient is given proper treatment and recovers, physical, occupational, or speech therapy may be needed to help regain lost muscle strength and/or speech skills.

More than three weeks ago, 22-year-old Nisreen Rida al-Shammaa began suffering from unknown pains in her stomach, so her mother took her to the field hospital to be tested. 

After examining Nisreen and analyzing her blood, urine, brain and spinal fluid, doctors had no clear answers as to what was causing her condition. 

Ultimately Nisreen began experiencing acute diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and stomach pain leading to intense headache and then blindness. 

Several days ago her situation developed into hemiparesis (semi-paralysis) affecting the left side of her body. 

Nisreen’s body failed to respond to a simple treatment plan so all that could be done under the circumstances has been the administering of anti-inflation medicine, sedatives, and intravenous serums that will keep her alive for now. 

According to the medical report, Nisreen is believed to have viral meningitis in addition to the clotting of intravenous pockets and solidification of plaque in the brain. 

The second case is that of 11-year-old Yaman AlaaIzz al-Din. The boy suffered from an intense infection that led to meningitis and severe head pain, as well as an unusually high temperature.

Though anti-inflammatories, sedatives and intravenous meds were administered to him, Yaman displayed sensitivity to the diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory steroid) as well as the penicillin.

As a result, his body did not respond to the treatment at all. 

Owing to the severe shortage of medical supplies, and in particular the lack of analgesics to reduce his fever, Yaman now suffers from extremely high body heat and was seen in a recent video crying uncontrollably which is also a sign of encephalitis. 

The doctor’s report suspects viral meningitis due to malnutrition and thus a lack of diverse nutrients capable of strengthening the immune system. 

These cases are in dire need of evacuation and hospitalization outside of Madaya; somewhere equipped and capable of offering treatment before time runs out. 

Doctors in Madaya are now calling on the United Nations and the Red Crescent, as well as other concerned parties, to help them by putting pressure all parties involved to allow Nisreen and Yaman, as well as all similar cases, to seek all necessary treatment and medical care. 

The situation in Madaya has not gone away even though the media coverage is no longer there. And it is getting worse with each passing day. The number of those succumbing to starvation and catastrophic illness will continue to rise unless appropriate measures are taken. 

Even in the face of the world’s apathy, the residents of Madaya continue to hope that the international community will help them by putting pressure on all parties involved in an effort to break the siege on their suffering city.

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