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Haunting images of Aleppo and Madaya are why Syrians still need help

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14.03.2019

The children in the streets were so malnourished that they hardly noticed our arrival.

Skeletal children are a haunting image. But our aid trip to the Syrian city of Madaya in the cold of January 2016 left me with an even grimmer memory: A dark basement filled with hollow-faced children and catatonic elders, all of them cold, ill and hungry. Limp bodies lay on blue blankets on the floor of a makeshift subterranean clinic, hiding from aerial bombardment.

Syria is reeling from its eight-year conflict. Every single family in the country has lost a relative. No family has survived unscathed, whether by displacement, injury, death or disappearance. So many houses, hospitals, schools, and electricity/water facilities have been damaged or destroyed.

Syria needs help now. I would know. During the past eight years, most of them as head of delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross, I saw the country traverse the seemingly thin line between pleasant peace and deadly destruction.

A return to wider war is possible, maybe even likely, without a political breakthrough and a plan to rebuild the broken, both buildings and people. Answers must be given for the likely hundreds of thousands who have gone missing, separated families must be put back together, and those suffering from psychological wounds must be supported before healing can take place.

Read more: Syrian detainee No. 72's tales of torture

Marianne Gasser visits a patient at the Al Tal hospital in Damascus

In short, Syria's people must figure out how to co-exist. As aid workers, we can help in the short and medium term; I hope that the international community will make the commitments needed for a peaceful long term.

The trauma of Madaya is seared into my mind. During our visit, a mother of six whispered in my ear: "I just lost my eldest son. He was 17. Please help me to keep the remaining five alive.”

Another woman, smiling, leaned close and said: "You know what you have done, you people from the outside? By talking to us, by remembering us, you brought us back something else: our dignity. Thank you."

Syria has been engulfed in a devastating civil war since 2011 after Syrian President Bashar Assad lost control over large parts of the country to multiple revolutionary groups. The conflict has since drawn in foreign powers and brought misery and death to Syrians.

Syria's army, officially known as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), is loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is fighting to restore the president's rule over the entire country. The SAA has been fighting alongside a number of pro-Assad militias such as the National Defense Force and has cooperated with military advisors from Russia and Iran, which back Assad.

Turkey, which is also part of the US-led........

© Deutsche Welle