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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.