Mother of 9-year-old girl targeted by a sniper’s bullet calls for evacuation from Madaya: ‘She is in urgent need of trauma surgery’

Nine-year-old Ghina was walking with her younger sister in encircled Madaya, a mountain town of 40,000 northwest of Damascus, when a government-allied sniper at a nearby checkpoint took aim at her and fired. The bullet entered Ghina’s upper-left thigh, shattering her bone. 

As Ghina’s younger sister Nagham tried to pull her off the road to a secure location, the sniper took aim a second time. This time the bullet struck Nagham’s hand.

The two girls laid on the side of the road until passersby were able to pull them out of the line of fire and transport them to a nearby field hospital. At the hospital, medical staff diagnosed Ghina with a “displaced fracture, a shattered bone and a severed nerve in her upper left thigh,” Ghina’s mother, who requested anonymity, tells Syria Direct’s Waleed Khaled a-Noufal.

Madaya’s wounded, like Ghina, have only one way to get out of the besieged town and receive the treatment they need: A reciprocal agreement between rebel and regime forces, brokered by Iran, provides for the evacuation of wounded people from Madaya in exchange for a parallel evacuation from two Idlib towns besieged by rebel forces.

The only way for someone like Ghina to get out of Madaya today is through one of the 65 checkpoints—manned by government and Hezbollah snipers—that surround Madaya and nearby Zabadani. Residents say the checkpoints fire upon anybody who gets too close to either town’s periphery.

Regime forces surrounded Madaya in July 2015 as part of a broader offensive to recapture the nearby town of Zabadani, held by rebels since 2012.

Several dozens of people have died from starvation in this town, despite surrendering to the regime in exchange for relief from the siege. With almost nothing and no one allowed in or out, the town is slowly dying from the inside.

 Nine-year-old Ghina rests, now at her home in Madaya. She was shot by a regime-allied sniper last week. Photo courtesy of Ghina’s family.

Over the past year, snipers killed seven people in Madaya, according to both a report published on July 13 by Physicians for Human Rights, a US-based organization, and a separate incident report from the Madaya Medical Commission published July 23. This past Monday, snipers shot and wounded three people, an activist inside Madaya told Syria Direct.

Delegations from the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have previously organized evacuations of critically injured people from Madaya, most recently on July 20.

Ghina’s family hopes to get her name on a list of people eligible to leave if and when a future evacuation takes place.

“What we need is for a humanitarian or human rights organization, either through the Red Crescent or Red Cross, to help us evacuate her so she can receive proper treatment,” said Ghina’s mother.

“She is in need of urgent trauma surgery.”

Syria Direct contacted media representatives from both the ICRC’s Damascus office and SARC regarding Ghina’s situation. Neither responded.

Q: How was Ghina injured?

Ghina was shot by a regime sniper stationed at the al-Asali checkpoint in Baqin as she was walking to the field hospital in Madaya. She was coming with her younger sister to help prepare a serum I need for my calcium deficiency.

Her younger sister Nagham told us that when Ghina was shot she tried to pull her to the side of the road. That’s when the sniper shot her as well. He hit her in her hand, leaving her with a minor wound.

We brought them to the field hospital but, given the siege, the hospital is lacking the medicine and staff needed for their treatment.

Q: How is Ghina’s health at the moment? What medical treatment does she need?

She’s in need of urgent trauma surgery. She has a displaced fracture, a shattered bone and a severed nerve in her upper left thigh. This is the eighth day she has been suffering. I gave her painkillers, but it’s not enough. Her screaming fills the house day and night—the pain is too intense.

What we need is for a humanitarian or human rights organization, either through the Red Crescent or Red Cross, to help us evacuate her so she can receive proper treatment. She needs to go to either Damascus or Lebanon, really anywhere but here, to receive surgery.

Q: Have you been in contact with the regime to get her out of Madaya to receive treatment? What was the response?

We contacted the regime, the Red Crescent and the Red Cross to help Ghina, but neither of the latter two responded and the regime refused to evacuate her for treatment.

I wish that Syria Direct would bring Ghina’s story to the world. At the moment her condition is critical. There is no surgical equipment here to help her. All we can do is give her simple painkillers. She won’t stop crying.

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

David Leestma

David Leestma studied International Relations at Grand Valley State University. His studies took him to Lebanon, as well as Morocco and Oman with the Critical Language Scholarship in 2014 and 2015. Before joining Syria Direct as a full time reporter, David interned with Syria Direct as a translator and collaborated with ISW to produce the Syria Situation Report.

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. She holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.