On Friday, August 12, the Red Crescent evacuated a pair of conjoined twins from the regime-encircled Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta.
Moath and Nawras, born on July 23 by Caesarean section, are currently at a private hospital in Damascus with their mother, waiting to be transferred to Beirut.
The hospital in East Ghouta, where the twins were born, could not treat them because of a lack of medical supplies, the result of four years of tight encirclement. Nothing is allowed in or out.
The infants, who are conjoined at the stomach and pericardial sac, need specialized surgery to separate them. The Damascus hospital does not have the medical staff or tools to complete the operation.
While waiting for the surgery that will save their lives, “the twins’ health has deteriorated slightly,” Dr. Mohammed Katoob, a member of the East Ghouta Unified Medical Office, who is involved directly in negotiations to transfer the twins, tells Syria Direct’s Noura Hourani.
The doctor is pressuring Lebanese authorities so the twins can be transferred to Beirut.
“We are trying to move them as soon as possible so we can save their lives.”
Q: How were they evacuated? Who went with them? Which parties were involved?
After the twins were born, the Red Crescent tried to obtain permission from the regime, but the regime refused, asking for documents and approval from security forces.
We looked for other ways to evacuate them, but we couldn’t because the twins needed an ambulance and a medical team.
Starting August 5, we pressured humanitarian groups—the World Health Organization, the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.
All of the organizations responded that the twins must be evacuated from Ghouta to Damascus and then transferred outside of Syria.
Friday afternoon, August 12, the Red Crescent in Douma evacuated the twins after extensive negotiations.
The twins leave East Ghouta on August 12. Photo courtesy of Douma Medical Center.
Q: Where were they transferred?
First, the twins were moved to the Children’s Hospital in Damascus, but it didn’t accept them because there aren’t any vacancies.
So they were transferred to a private hospital. We’re still following their situation and pressuring humanitarian organizations to help move them to a hospital in Beirut. We’re currently waiting for security approval from the Lebanese side.
The twins need a specialized hospital, medical staff and equipment, which aren’t available in Damascus.
The twins’ health has deteriorated slightly. We are trying to move them as soon as possible so we can save their lives.
Several hospitals worldwide announced that they’re ready to receive the twins.
Q: Did the regime ask for prisoners in exchange for the twins?
The regime didn’t ask for prisoners in exchange for the twins’ evacuation. But the regime did ask for prisoners in exchange for aid to enter Madaya three months ago. Opposition factions in Ghouta released prisoners in order for aid to enter the city.
This doesn’t make sense, for us to mix humanitarian and military affairs.
Q: Does the regime give you any guarantees that people who are evacuated won’t be harmed or arrested?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any guarantees. For that reason, residents are worried about sick and injured people who need to be evacuated. If a person is wanted by the regime’s security forces, he’ll be arrested. He isn’t guaranteed anything.
Unfortunately, this reality has prevented many people from leaving.
Q: Are there any other people you are trying to evacuate now?
There aren’t any urgent cases in Ghouta, but many people need to be evacuated from Darayya, Moadamiyet a-Sham and Madaya.
The situation in these cities is very difficult. In Madaya alone, 85 people have died because their evacuation was delayed.