News / USA

    Syrian, American Doctors Skype in Chemical Weapons 'Situation Room'

    Syrian, American Doctors Skype in Chemical Weapons 'Situation Room'i
    X
    September 17, 2013 2:45 PM
    A field hospital near Aleppo was destroyed Wednesday by shelling, killing the six medical personnel inside, and patients. The Syrian American Medical Society says that hospital was the third that has been destroyed in the town in two years - in a war that has killed more than 100,000 people. A group of surgeons in the United States - through the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations and the Syrian American Medical Society - is assisting with the increasing medical needs - without ever entering a Syrian operating room. VOA's Carolyn Presutti takes us into a secret Skype surgery session for this exclusive report.
    Syrian, American Doctors Skype in Chemical Weapons 'Situation Room'
    A group of Syrian-American doctors had anticipated a major chemical weapons attack in Syria and was planning for ways to help the victims. But they were unprepared for the enormity of the August 21 massacre during which the U.S. estimates more than 1,400 people were killed.

    Now, their meetings in Fort Wayne, Indiana, focus on preparation for future attacks. 
    They meet in a “Chemical Weapons Situation Room” in a place you’d least likely expect to find it.

    To get to its location, you have to drive up to a suburban American house. Go inside, and down to the family basement. There you will find a the "situation room" where the doctors meet and speak only in Arabic via Skype.

    The 33 doctors that join the call are in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Turkey. Three doctors are inside Syria.  Two are in the Damascus suburbs where the attacks took place, and one is in Aleppo.

    Dr. Ammar Ghanem, who leads the meetings, says they are discussing building chemical weapons treatment centers and protecting medical personnel from future attacks.  

    Sixty-five people died at Dr. Majd's hospital in the August 21 chemical attack.  To treat future victims, he says the centers would be made up of multiple buildings, each specializing in different conditions, and would be built underground.

    The doctors use nicknames for security reasons.  A doctor who calls himself "Chemical Hazam" joins the session from Aleppo. The group considers him its chemical weapons expert.  He says they need a decontamination tent at the entrance to the centers.

    “We receive war-injured people" he said. "So we don't want the hospital to be contaminated with a chemical agent, and we know decontamination is the first step in treating people.”
     
    The group discusses the three centers to be built.  The doctors in Syria want more.  The U.S.-based doctors ask if they are able to staff that many.

    Ghanem says the group planned how to help if there were a major chemical attack, but not soon enough.

    “With all the difficulty we have, especially with logistics, it's hard to get equipment and medical supplies inside,” he said.

    And there’s a never-ending need for donations.  American doctors collect supplies with the help of assistants. The staff drives them to a Detroit warehouse where volunteers box them so they can be shipped to the Mediterranean and smuggled into Syria.
     
    But the one item needed most - chemical protection suits - is not part of this shipment, says Hazam.  

    “We tried to look for it in Turkey. We asked France. I think they also asked the United States, and no one would help us with such equipment,” he said.

    Doctors say 900 more people could have been saved in August if they had had chemical protection gear and sarin antidotes. Neither is available in Syria.

    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora