Syria War: 'Children Are Biggest Casualty'

Stuart Ramsay, Chief Correspondent, in Aleppo

The anguished cries of a little boy receiving treatment without anaesthetic for a shrapnel wound to the face fills the putrid air of a converted shop that is an Aleppo field hospital.

The walls are splattered with blood. All around are shop fronts with medics working on the latest injured.

A car pulls out and a young man shot in a drive-by attack staggers inside followed by his screaming mother.

In rebel-held Aleppo, this is just another day. It isn't particularly busy. It is just constant.

Medics, who have gone underground after their hospital was reduced to rubble by a targeted Syrian government bombing campaign, say children are being injured and killed in greater numbers now than the rebel fighters.

Stuck inside this city the children are on the streets more than anyone else. Playing or scavenging amongst piles of rubbish for anything of value to take home, they are now the most vulnerable.

A short distance away in another makeshift hospital room nine-year-old Hamid Sakia whimpers in pain; a sack of draining blood lies on the floor. He was shot by a sniper while playing football. He will lose his kidney. The medics are waiting for a surgeon to get enough anaesthetic to operate.

He whispers a "Yes" as I ask him if it hurts. His mother looks on holding back tears. She buried her daughter this week. Her family is being torn apart.

It is not about the lack of food or heating or supplies, she says.

"What will happen in the future?" She asks: "What will happen? Everyone is scared."

In a room next door, surrounded by seat cushions to try to keep the breeze from her skin, Aya Hussein stares motionlessly ahead. She is dreadfully burnt. Her tiny body a web of fierce welts caused by a fire when her apartment was hit by an artillery round.

The cushions are her treatment. This is life in Aleppo.

This city is slowly being destroyed. There is barely a building unscarred by the bombing from fighter jets and artillery. A million plus people still live here amongst the ruins where shells and snipers are a constant.

Cars cross the most dangerous parts of town protected by mud walls. You can hear the sniper rounds thudding into the barricade or whining over head as you pass.

The dreadful sound of artillery rounds smashing into buildings never stops wherever you go.

Once tree-filled parks are now open spaces. There is no heat or electricity in Aleppo so wood has become a precious commodity.

In the markets there are plenty of local vegetables. But meat, gas, fuel and pretty much everything else comes from Turkey at a huge cost. Gas bottles are 15 times their proper cost.

People are living in battered apartment blocks. Theirs is a virtual twilight of dark stair wells and shuttered rooms.

The artillery comes from the south so they huddle in north facing homes. But the shrapnel and the explosive power of the bombs means nowhere is truly safe.

"I am hopeless. I can only trust in my God," 78-year-old Mahmoud tells me. He and his wife Emira are alone. Their family has fled, they depend on the handouts of neighbours. Their flat is freezing and bare.

On the next storey Rada cuddles two of her six children. It is freezing inside and they have just a few scraps of food to eat.

"My husband won't leave Aleppo. We want to stay here whatever happens. Our children are ill, they are frightened, but we have nowhere else to go," she says.

The rebels and the government forces appear to have fought themselves to a standstill. In the middle a population is stuck, surviving but dying as well, every day.

This is Aleppo.

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