The doctor who won’t leave the war zone

“As an anesthesiologist, I could get a nice job in France where both of my brothers live, but I have to stay. It is in Syria that I can make a difference,”

World Disasters Report

World Disasters Report

Focus on local actors, the key to effective humanitarian action

“As an anesthesiologist, I could get a nice job in France where both of my brothers live, but I have to stay. It is in Syria that I can make a difference,” says Maissam Hamoui, 34 year old Syrian. Hamoui lives with her mother and sister in one of the most war-torn cities in the country. The war has been a part of the family’s day-to-day existence for more than four years now.  

Aleppo is one of the cities where Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff and volunteers have helped more than a million people in the past year. In partnership with the Danish, German and Norwegian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and supported by the European Union, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has – among other things – distributed 100,695 blankets, 32,675 mats and 32,705 mattresses to internally displaced people and host families. The project has also supported 15 health clinics – one of which is in in Maissam’s hometown.

Both as a Red Crescent volunteer and as an anesthesiologist, Hamoui experiences the human tragedy caused by the conflict on a daily basis. “The worst experience I had was when a little baby girl was wounded in a bomb attack. She was only a month old and not bigger than this,” she says shaping her hands like a small bowl. “The baby was in a really bad condition. Getting her ready for surgery, I knew that she had maybe minutes left to live – but in spite of that I could feel that she was fighting. It was obvious that it was a fight she could not win. But thinking about her gives me strength – if she could fight so can I.”

When Hamoui takes off her doctor’s coat, she puts on a Red Crescent uniform and volunteers as a water and sanitation team leader. Since water became scarce last spring, she has been very busy. Part of her work includes hygiene promotion, where she is supported by a large European Union project. In the last 12 months funds have been provided which allowed the team to distribute 68,523 baby kits, 47,365 hygiene kits and 11,964 kits for special needs. The work has reached over 317,000 people in Aleppo and other hard-hit areas.

Maissam Hamoui is a passionate local. She knows that her good spirit in the face of adversity may seem surprising to those outside of Syria, but says she is thankful to be doing good work in a city that needs her. “Before the war, I thought I was going to be a Red Crescent delegate in Africa, but now Syria is where people need my help. I have to stay in Aleppo,” she says.

Also available in: French, Spanish

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The doctor who won’t leave the war zone