Syria's White Helmets urge help after child dies of earthquake injuries

Syria's White Helmets urge help after child dies of earthquake injuries
Syrian boy Arslan Berri, the sole survivor of his immediate family, died from multiple organ failure and septicemia following the February 6 earthquake.
2 min read
24 February, 2023
The White Helmets carried outmost of the humanitarian work in rebel-held Syria, following the earthquake [Getty]

White Helmets rescuers in rebel-held northwest Syria called on international help on Friday to save people with quake-related crush injuries after a boy they rescued died from the condition.

The group had spearheaded rescue efforts in rebel-held areas with virtually no outside help after a 7.8-magnitude quake that struck war-torn Syria and Turkey on February 6 killed more than 46,000 people.

"Unfortunately Arslan Berri, one of the children we had saved, has passed away," White Helmets chief Raed Saleh told AFP.

"The world must stand with children and all those affected by crush syndrome," he said, urging the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to "act and urgently respond" to such cases.

The condition occurs in limbs starved of blood circulation for too long and can cause kidney failure, cardiac and other potentially fatal complications.

On February 10, Saleh accused the United Nations of committing a "crime" with its slow aid response to the northwest after the quake.

Two days later UN relief chief Martin Griffiths acknowledged the body had "failed the people of northwest Syria".

The White Helmets' latest appeal for help came a day after three-year-old Berri died from multiple organ failure and septicemia following the crushing of his lower limbs, his doctor Muhib Kaddour told AFP.

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"We did everything we could," the doctor said.

Saleh, whose group honed its rescue skills during Syria's years-long civil war, said "hundreds of people injured in the earthquake suffer from the condition and need advanced medical care".

But the region's medical sector was "greatly exhausted" by the war, quake damage, the Covid-19 pandemic and a cholera outbreak, he added.

Years of Russian airstrikes and regime shelling on hospitals and other civilian infrastructure have battered the rebel pocket's health care sector, he said, and quake survivors cannot easily seek treatment abroad.

On Thursday, Turkey authorised for the first time two children injured in the quake to cross over from rebel-held areas for treatment. One of them was a nine-year-old Syrian girl with crush syndrome.

Berri's dead father was still cradling the child in his arms when rescuers found him, his uncle previously told AFP.

The boy was the sole survivor of his immediate family.