Aleppo pediatric blood bank cuts services, can’t meet $2,500 monthly expenses

April 7, 2016

More than 300 children requiring regular blood transfusions may lose access to treatment after a north Aleppo blood bank announced that it lost its funding, a doctor at the facility told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

The Atareb Genetic Blood Disease Center serves children in the Aleppo and northern Idlib countrysides suffering from multiple forms of anemia, a hereditary condition that results in deficiencies in red blood cell production.

“Many of these children require weekly or monthly blood transfusions,” the pediatric center’s director Dr. Hassan Qassoum tells Syria Direct’s Noura Hourani. Now, the doctor says, the center is operating on a “limited basis.”

The health authorities responsible for rebel-held Aleppo province does not have the money to fund the blood bank, says the doctor. Today, the center can only provide blood transfusions “to patients who bring blood donated by a family member,” says Qassoum, who, along with the rest of his staff, is no longer getting paid for his work.

“We have no blood reserves, medicine or supplies for blood tests.”

 Children prepare to receive blood transfusions at Atareb blood bank. Photo courtesy of Atareb Genetic Blood Disease Center.

Q: When did the blood bank stop receiving funding? Have you stopped operating?

The funding stopped coming in about two months ago. We reached out to multiple organizations to request help but have not received any replies yet. As of now the bank is operating on a limited basis.

We can only provide blood transfusions to patients who bring blood donated by a family member. We have no blood reserves, medicine or supplies for blood tests.

Q: Who funds the blood bank?

The Free Aleppo Health Directorate founded the blood bank a year ago. But now they can no longer fund us.

[Ed.: The Free Aleppo Health Directorate, founded in November 2013 by government doctors who defected from the Syrian regime, oversees all medical facilities in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province.]

The bank provides services to the entire Aleppo countryside as well as the northern Idlib countryside. We currently treat more than 300 patients, all of whom are children. Many of these children require weekly or monthly blood transfusions.

Q: What does the center need to remain in operation?

Our monthly operating costs are around $2,500. This sum covers staff salaries, diesel for generators and medical equipment. The hospital staff currently provides their services on a voluntary basis. We are also calling on residents to donate blood because the recent battles in the northern Aleppo countryside depleted our supplies.

[Ed.: Although its primary function is to serve anemia patients, the blood bank also provides blood for trauma surgery at nearby hospitals.]
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