Damascus, Syria, March 29, 2016 – In a major breakthrough in negotiations for the safe transfer of children in besieged areas in Syria, SOS Children’s Villages, working in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), has evacuated a wounded five-year-old girl, her 18-month-old brother and their mother from the besieged Syrian town of Madaya.
The girl, Rama*, suffered multiple gunshot wounds as she walked to school last week. Her mother had no alternative but to seek help from a veterinarian, who was prepared to perform surgery on the girl, with the assistance of a doctor in Damascus via telephone. Just as the surgery was about to begin, they received a phone call to wait because there was a chance that Rama could be evacuated.
“The 10 minutes waiting for that confirmation were the longest 10 minutes of my life,” said Salma*, Rama’s mother. Time was of the essence – Rama had lost huge amounts of blood and needed oxygen, but supplies were dwindling.
The phone rang again – this time with a confirmation that an ambulance from SARC was available to take Rama to a private hospital in Damascus where SOS Children’s Villages would cover her medical costs. On Friday evening, SARC transported the family from Madaya to the hospital.
The move came nearly three months after a team from SOS Children’s Villages first entered Madaya to assess conditions for vulnerable children, and weeks of negotiations to begin the evacuation of unaccompanied and other vulnerable children in towns, such as Madaya, Kefraya and Foah.
“This evacuation is only the beginning of the long road to reaching countless other vulnerable Syrian children,” said Alia Dalli, International Director of SOS Children’s Villages for the Middle East and North African Region. “The rights of children are not open for negotiation. It is not acceptable in war or in peace, for children to go hungry and without shelter, education and care.”
Originally in intensive care, Rama is now recovering. Her brother is in good physical and mental health and has been enjoying milk and toys provided by SOS Children’s Villages.
“I hope that my daughter can be the start of more and more children that can be evacuated from Madaya and all the other Syrian cities that are under siege”, said Salma. “My dream was to see my daughter alive, and thanks to SOS and SARC, that dream came true.”
SOS Children’s Villages continues to work closely with SARC to negotiate the evacuation of other wounded, vulnerable and unaccompanied children from Madaya, Kefraya and Foah.
* Names were changed to protect privacy.
About SOS Children’s Villages
SOS Children’s Villages believes that every child deserves a loving home. We build families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children in 134 countries and territories, including Syria. In operation since January 2012, the SOS Emergency Relief Program in Syria runs the following programs for vulnerable children and their families:
- Interim Care Centers (ICCs) for unaccompanied and separated children. At the ICCs, the children receive food, temporary shelter, medical care and trauma counseling.
- Child-care Spaces that offer various activities for children, such as art therapy workshops, storytelling sessions, sports activities and music classes. Children also have access to psychosocial and trauma support.
- Family strengthening programs that provide emergency aid, such as food, water, medicine, clothing and more.