Syria. Violence. Chaos. Pain. Suffering. For many people in the far corners of the world, these past three years of war have put Syria on the map. But it was not always like this.
Damascus three years ago was a different scene. An upcoming city, where the young had their ambitions fuelled by emerging businesses. Children went to school every day in buildings that were safe. They ate when they were hungry, and had beds to sleep in. The sick among them were supported by a strong healthcare system.
Nowadays inside Syria there is little help for anyone, let alone those in dire need. Three long years of war have seen the healthcare system all but collapse. Around 60% of all hospitals in the country and have been damaged or destroyed. The few healthcare professionals that remain do so under constant threat of attack, in the devastated remains of what were once functioning hospitals. Schools too, are frequently targeted, resulting in countless innocent children being rushed in for treatment in a building that is barely standing, treated by doctors, who too, are barely standing.
Imagine the horrors of healthcare in a warzone: children having limbs amputated because of a lack of medical supplies and equipment to treat their wounds. Patients knocked out with iron bars, rather than face an operation without anaesthetic. A newborn baby dying in an incubator because of power-cuts. Imagine when the hospital lights go out not knowing whether you are about to lose the lives you are so desperately trying to save, or if the building you are standing in will fall down around you. Imagine carrying your wounded child to a hospital only to realise they do not have the medicines to treat them.
For millions of people inside Syria - this is the reality of their lives now.
In the three years of bloody war, violence has escalated across the country resulting in the deaths of 10,000 children. Around 2.4 million people have sought safety in neighbouring countries, leaving what remains of their homes and the lives that they knew behind them. But not everyone was physically able to leave. Among those that remain are the most vulnerable, the sick, the wounded and traumatised. Many of them children. Around 9 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria.
It is not just the bullets and shells that are killing and maiming adults and children; they are also dying because they are unable to receive treatment for a range of illnesses that would otherwise have been cured. Syria's health system is in ruins.
Save the Children's new report, A Devastating Toll: the Impact of Three Years of War on the Health of Syria's Children, highlights the horrifying health implications the war has had for children.
Vaccination programmes have collapsed, causing the resurgence of deadly diseases like measles, polio and meningitis, which were all but eradicated before the conflict. Patients have been attacked while they lay in hospital beds and doctors imprisoned while on duty. Aleppo was formerly home to 2,500 doctors. Now, only 36 remain.
Among them, they risk their lives trying to save others that desperately need their help, making use of anything that can be salvaged from the wreckage - one doctor told Save the Children his team were using car batteries to power home-made dialysis machines for children with chronic diseases.
Last month the world's attention was turned to Syria once more when the UN Security Council secured a resolution on unhindered humanitarian access for impartial agencies like Save the Children. A vital move for the millions of sick and wounded people stuck inside Syria with no access to medicines.
This is an important first step - but access must include the lifting of sieges, or at minimum humanitarian pauses to allow aid in, permission for aid to cross conflict lines, and cross borders from neighbouring countries where this is the most efficient route. This could mean the difference between life and death for millions of children and their families suffering inside Syria.
Save the Children is also calling for parties to the conflict not to target health workers or health facilities, a violation of the Geneva Conventions. And if the political will can be found to allow chemical weapons inspectors to reach besieged areas, the international community must surely be able to find the will to allow medicine, vaccines and other desperately needed aid to reach children.
It is impossible to know when the conflict will end. But what we can do is unite in support of the innocent Syrian people who have endured years of unspeakable suffering and show that the world has not forgotten Syria, and those inside who so desperately await our help.Suggest a correction