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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

The fight to evacuate seven children with cancer from Syria

A charity is attempting to rescue several children from Eastern Ghouta so that they can receive medical attention

Nearly 12% of children in Eastern Ghouta are suffering from acute malnutrition - the highest level recorded in Syria since the war began. EPA/MOHAMMED BADRA
Nearly 12% of children in Eastern Ghouta are suffering from acute malnutrition - the highest level recorded in Syria since the war began. EPA/MOHAMMED BADRA

Seven children with cancer may be evacuated from a besieged area of Syria, according to a British charity.

The organisation's request is being considered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose private office will give a decision next week.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, an adviser to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), which operates in Eastern Ghouta, told the National: "These children will die needlessly if we cannot get them out of Ghouta to proper treatment.

"There is just a chance that a ceasefire in Ghouta might lead to a wider peace. The people of Ghouta have suffered unimaginably for four years and we will strain every nerve and sinew to help them and save these innocent children".

Mr de Bretton-Gordon says it is understood Assad is considering the decision and that the charity will be contacting the Syrian President directly on Tuesday to get a response. If the go ahead is given, the children will be moved out of Ghouta as a matter of urgency.

The children are among more than 130 needing urgent medical treatment in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. Dozens of civilians are reported to have died in recent government bombardments and food shortages have led to severe malnutrition.

The Damascus suburb has been under government siege for four years. Charities on-the-ground have reported that thirty children a day fainting from hunger and food prices are up by 300% in some cases. The Red Cross have said life in Eastern Ghouta was almost “impossible”.

Read more: Breakthrough aid in Syria 'not enough' to save malnourished children

Writing in the Guardian, he and Dr David Nott, a fellow director of Doctors Under Fire and advisor to UOSSM, said: “For God’s sake, for the god of every religion, let’s try to end 2017 and begin 2018 with a bit of compassion and get these children out. We will go ourselves to Ghouta and get them on Christmas Day if need be. Come on, Mr Putin, Mr Assad, show some humility for the sake of humankind.”.

One of the children who could be evacuated include Rama, 4, has lymphoma. She is also suffering from malnutrition and has a malignant tumour in her throat. The young girl has not received treatment for eight months.

Any evacuation would not include children with other medical conditions or injuries. The UN reports that nearly 12% of children in Eastern Ghouta are suffering from acute malnutrition.