Eastern Aleppo's Only Ophthalmologist Sees Ravages Of Syria's War

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A Syrian medical worker inspects the damage at the site of a medical facility after it was reportedly hit by Syrian regime barrel bombs on Oct. 1 in Aleppo's rebel-held neighborhood of al-Sakhour. Fewer than 30 doctors remain in the besieged city.

Abdulkhalek Dabaa, one of fewer than 30 doctors left in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, is the only remaining ophthalmologist in the eastern part of the city. Medical supplies are scarce, so he has resorted to making his own eyedrops. His wife, an obstetrician, relies on folk remedies for her patients.

Some 275,000 civilians are living under siege in eastern Aleppo, and Dabaa says he sees about 85 patients every day. Despite the war, he and his family are committed to staying. "We prefer to die here in our homes, in our houses — not to leave it," he tells Morning Edition host Renee Montagne.


Interview Highlights

On conditions in Aleppo

When the cease-fire end[ed] — every minute, every single hour, we have rockets, huge rocket, bombs — barrel bombs. It's hell.

[My daughter] is afraid. Afraid of the warplane, afraid to go to the street alone, and she has to stay here in the room, which is like a shelter in the house. ... She sometimes speaks about nightmares. She saw a warplane, she saw a rocket, she saw dead bodies. It's not the life for a child. It's horrible for a child.

The streets is full of stones, with cars burned. Burnt cars with fragments and every two or three buildings, one of them is totally destroyed.

In front of us in the street, the rocket in one car with the three persons — all of them was burned alive. [A woman was] injured and her child — the head is separated from the body of the child. There is very miserable cases here in Aleppo.

On why he and others choose to stay

We had many chances to leave Aleppo from the beginning of the war but we preferred to stay here.

If there is a safe pathway to the people to leave Aleppo, maybe half of the people here — they will leave. But the others will stay. Will stay and they will suffer from these rockets and they will not leave their homes because if we go out, the regime will take our houses, our properties.

[If we leave] we will be in a camp or we live in a tent. What life is that? It's miserable life. So we prefer to die here in our homes, in our houses — not to leave it.

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