'30 surgeries a day' - medic tells of stint in Syria

WASHINGTON D.C. - Hisham Naji is an anesthesiologist, who on his two week spell in a refugee camp in Syria, saw more than 50 patients on his first day.

"I remember doing 30 surgeries a day under very difficult circumstances. We were doing some of them on a table, and some on a stretcher, all the while fighting a lack of medical equipment and materials," Naji told an Anadolu Agency (AA) reporter in Washington on Thursday.

Working in the opposition-held areas as a member of the Syrian American Medical Society, Naji told the AA that a lack of basic medical materials was a crippling issue on the ground.

"Whichever camp you go to, you can see that people were dying due to extremely simple reasons. A very basic medication would help them survive, but they cannot find it," he said.

Naji said the most urgently needed medical item was anesthetics. "We were there and ready to engage in treatment but we couldn't do anything because we didn't have the materials."

He said the harsh weather conditions compounded health problems. "It was really cold during the time we were there. There was no such thing as a heater. You can only warm up using pieces of wood if you can find them. We were curling up with 6-7 blankets at night."

Naji said it would be dangerous for him to return to Syria. "There is no doubt in my mind the regime had my name on a list," he said. "I never crossed into regime-held areas. "If I had, they would have probably killed me," he added.

Despite all difficulties, Naji said he was impressed by Syrians' resolve to survive. "No water, no food. People perishing of hunger. It is amazing that they somehow managed to hold on."

Syria has been gripped by a three-year conflict that has killed over 130,000 people and displaced 2.5 million. Talks between President Bashar Assad's regime and the opposition failed to yield progress towards a political solution after two weeks of UN-mediated negotiations that began late last month in Geneva, Switzerland.

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