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The last medic in Madaya

Khaled Naanaa lived an ordinary life until he found himself as the last medic left in a town under siege.

Wednesday March 15, 2017

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Trained and working as a nurse, Khaled had a nice house, had recently married and was looking forward to the birth of his first child.

But everything changed when the war began.

"After the start of the war the situation was really devastating for people. There were snipers all over the place, they were bombarded. The amount of people injured, killed was unimaginable," Khaled says.

Armed with his medical skills, Khaled felt it was his duty to help out. He left his family in the capital of Damascus and travelled west to, a small town that he hadn't visited before.

"Madaya had basically no means of medical attention. In mid-2012 there was a great need for medical attention and doctors. When I arrived, the people were overwhelmed and were very happy," he recounts.

But Khaled could do only so much to help. Lacking medical essentials and with few doctors, treating the injured was difficult. When one of the last doctors left in order to protect his family, Khaled was devastated.

"I felt like crying, I just wanted to escape and leave. At the same time there were about fifteen to twenty thousand people with no houses and they were in desperate need," he says.

"I felt lost for what to do on my own, I needed doctors and I felt responsible. There is no way I could leave and leave those poor people behind."

"I felt like there was a connection between them and me. I felt like they were my family."

So Khaled went to great lengths to help. He resorted to ringing doctors for advice and even to watching YouTube clips to learn how to operate.

"I had to get back into studies and training and finding out ways of how to deal with certain injuries, he says. "Training and calling doctors asking and going to YouTube to learn about how to operate on injured people. How to open the tummy and to operate with whatever injury is required and the stitching and broken bones.

"I had to go to extremes."

At the same time, Khaled had been contacting international organisations desperately pleading for help for the people of Madaya. Under siege, without food or medical supplies, people were starving.

"Madaya was surrounded and there was no food at that time. No one could bring food to us. We couldn't get any food or medical supplies. We had about 30,000 to 40,000 people who were starving," he says.

Finally, in January 2016, help arrived. Khaled says that when the aid convoy arrived it was like a second chance at life. He says it was like a life sentence had been lifted.

"The people who were going through that thought it was the end. They thought they didn't have anyone to save them until that day. It's like someone coming with open arms and giving you something to keep you alive, a hand pulling you through the point of death."

"At that point, when the United Nations arrived, when Red Cross arrived, it felt like everyone was supporting us and they knew what we were going through. It was a great relief."

Khaled says even the smallest donation can make a big difference.

"With Red Cross helping people around the world, whether it is in Syria or any other country in the world, surely if people can give, even if it is a small amount of money, it could provide food for people who are struggling or dying of hunger," he says.  

"It could be something little but that is all it takes to stay alive."

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