Healing emotional pain
Psychosocial support has been critical for children living with cancer and their families.
Volunteers of the Syrian Red Arab Crescent (SARC) in partnership with UNICEF, make daily visits to the hospital. Children look forward to seeing the young people in red vests come into the ward and break the tedium of their stay. Nagham, a volunteer, says of her experience: “We come here every day in three shifts, we read stories for the children and we perform plays to amuse them.”
When a child dies, everyone on the ward shares their loss.
“The most difficult thing we face is when another child’s health starts to deteriorate because they have lost a friend,” adds Yasmin, another volunteer. “We have to work very hard to help get them out of this depression.”
Families are also given help. “Sometimes we see mothers collapsing in front of their children in despair. Support groups for mothers can help a lot in improving their awareness of how to treat their sick child and provide some comfort,” explains Fida Obaid, a Child Protection Officer with UNICEF.
Back on the ward, Dr. Hiba is clear where the problem lies. “As a result of sanctions we are not able to bring in drugs for children with cancer. We used to provide them for free but now there is only one children’s hospital in the Aleppo Governorate that can provide treatment without charge,” he explains.
“The only other place to get hold of medication is the black market, and most families can’t afford the high prices. Children are left as a result without treatment and are unlikely to recover.”