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‘I watched him die in my arms’: Second malnourished baby dies in encircled east Aleppo

On October 19, three-month-old Mustafa Iybo took his last breath […]

24 October 2016

On October 19, three-month-old Mustafa Iybo took his last breath in a hospital in encircled, rebel-held east Aleppo. He died one day before Moscow announced a unilateral ceasefire in Aleppo and opened corridors for families looking to flee the city. 

Mustafa is the second reported infant in east Aleppo to die since regime forces encircled the rebel-held neighborhoods of the city in early September, trapping 250,000 residents inside.

The milk from the baby’s mother “wasn’t enough, because she is also malnourished,” Mustafa’s father, Khalil Ibo, tells Syria Direct’s Amaal Ahmad and Mohammed al-Aseel.

“I’m emaciated because of malnutrition,” says Ibo, who works odd jobs to support his wife and five children. He mainly feeds his family the 850 grams of bread they receive from the local council every two days.

With baby formula supplies virtually exhausted due to the airtight siege, Syria Direct reported earlier this month, Mustafa, along with 10,000 other newborns in Aleppo, have no other source of food.

“I watched him die in my arms,” said the father.

Q: Describe Mustafa’s health before he passed away. What was the cause of his death?

We don’t know exactly what caused Mustafa’s death. Although his mother nursed him, he still suffered from malnutrition. Her milk wasn’t enough because she is also malnourished. We had no additional milk or food to help Mustafa because of the siege.

His health kept getting worse. We took him to the hospital after his health further deteriorated to run a few tests. We learned that he was suffering from dehydration. His skin had begun to turn blue.

After conducting chest scans, doctors discovered that Mustafa had a hole in his heart. They said that they needed to move him outside of Aleppo because they don’t have any treatment or medical tools to help him. They don’t have a surgeon.

[Ed.: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a hole in the heart, or an atrial septal defect, is a birth defect that occurs when there is a hole in the wall (septum) that divides the upper chambers of the heart (atria). Symptoms of a large or untreated atrial septal defect include difficulty breathing, tiring, a heart murmur or stroke.]

 Khalil and his sons at Mustafa’s grave. Photo courtesy of the Syrian Popular Movement.

Q: Did you try to evacuate him for treatment?

Yes, but to no avail. Every attempt by doctors and us to evacuate him failed. I watched him die in my arms.

Q: Did you see similar cases among infants in the hospital? Can they access medicine?

Yes, there are many sick children like Mustafa. If no food or medical aid enters besieged Aleppo, a humanitarian catastrophe will occur. There is a huge shortage of medicine and supplies. Russian and regime planes are bombing hospitals, medicine storehouses and every possible source of life.

Q: How many other children do you have? Are you able to feed them? 

I have four boys and one girl. I can’t secure enough food for them because I don’t have a stable job. I continue to work different jobs but my physical health doesn’t help.

I’m emaciated because of malnutrition. We receive 850 grams of bread every two days from the local council. This isn’t enough food for one day. My wife and I try to give up our portion of bread to feed our children.

My children are malnourished as well; they’ve become very weak. They can’t fight off sickness.

Q: On Thursday, October 20, the regime opened humanitarian corridors during a ceasefire for families to leave besieged neighborhoods. Do you support this idea?

No. I’m against leaving Aleppo. I prefer to die here than leave. If I wanted to leave, I wouldn’t have stayed and endured this much. The regime and Russia want to kill us by any means. If they were able to deny us of air, they would. We’ll die here. Let the world stand still and watch what is happening.

[On October 20, Damascus announced a unilateral humanitarian truce in Aleppo, Syria Direct reported. As part of the three-day ceasefire, the regime opened humanitarian corridors for any families fleeing the city, people requiring urgent medical care and any rebel looking to surrender.]

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