When surgeon Mounir Hakimi operated on five-month-old Maram in the Syrian province of Idlib last week, the horrific extent of her injuries quickly became clear.
“She lost both her parents in an air strike, has multiple fractures, a wound in her abdomen, and has lost lots of skin,” Hakimi told Al Jazeera. “We feared she might end up with an amputation because [her wounds] are so infected.”
Maram was one of the 35,000 people who left Aleppo last week as Syrian regime forces retook the city’s formerly rebel-held eastern districts.
As the evacuation ended on Thursday and snow blanketed the burned ground, opposition fighters and civilians were forced to the rebel-held countryside to the west, and to Idlib province on the Turkish border.
Medical staff are now overwhelmed by the influx of wounded Aleppans, who were under siege and aerial bombardment for more than 100 days. Thousands are suffering from infected shrapnel wounds, hypothermia and malnutrition. Surgeons are operating for up to 12 hours a day, and medical facilities are running at double capacity
Maram’s case is typical, according to Hakimi, who heads the charity Syria Relief, which is among a dozen aid organisations supporting the displaced from Aleppo. “She had no parents and was left in the hospital; she was taken by the ambulance and we found the names of her grandfather and her stepmother.”
Doctors in Idlib are seeing dozens of “infected and gangrenous” wounds, Hakimi said, noting that some patients may need amputations, or could be left with other long-term disabilities.
“Due to the continuous air strikes [on Aleppo], there are children who have shrapnel in their spines,” he explained. “That has caused them to be paralysed. We are seeing children who have lost vision in one eye because of the shrapnel.”