Hope Hospital

‘I think of the children first before thinking of myself, because their lives are in our hands’

The phrase everyday hero comes to mind when you learn about Malakeh Harbaliyya. But that term doesn’t quite appropriately describe her dedication to the brave works she’s doing. Harbaliyya is, perhaps more aptly, a hero every day.

In late 2016, a news crew was filming the effects of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Aleppo when the hospital they were in came was bombed. In a heart-stopping scene caught on camera, a young nurse is seen rescuing a tiny newborn in a pink blanket, before being overcome by wrenching sobs. That nurse is 31-year-old Harbaliyya, part of a medical team who resolved to stay together and rebuild their facility, away from the strife-torn Syrian capital. That heartbreaking moment was captured on camera and can be seen in the video below, which, it’s worth noting, contains disturbing images.

“Wherever we went, we wanted to set up a children’s hospital,” the hospital’s 32-year-old director, a doctor named Hatem, told AFP. (He preferred not to give his last name.) As humanitarian and doctor Rola Hallam told attendees at the Women in the World L.A. Salon in February, in an extraordinary grassroots effort, it took less than a month for 5,000 people from more than 10 countries to raise the necessary funds, and the new Hope Hospital was opened in the country’s rural north in April 2017. Since then, the facility has grown into a fully-fledged children’s hospital that includes nine baby incubators, a malnutrition clinic, a well-equipped lab and emergency services, as well as an obstetrics and gynecology unit.

And Harbaliyya is the picture of dedication. “I think of the children first before thinking of myself, because their lives are in our hands,” she told AFP in a recent interview. “Their tiny souls didn’t do anything to deserve this war.” Reflecting on the bombing of the hospital, Harbaliyya said, “What mattered to me was the strike that was on the hospital, and it happened near the children. There were about 10 children. Their souls mattered more, their souls mattered more than ours.”

Surviving the shelling of the hospital was not the end of Harbaliyya’s troubles, though, and continuing her heroic work was threatened when she became a casualty herself. Eight months after escaping death in the attack on the hospital, she survived a car bombing that sent her into intensive care in Turkey. Her hands still bear the burn scars, but she is back doing what she loves, dressed in a T-shirt that reads “Girls for the Future,” and among the colleagues she credits with inspiring her recovery. “My colleagues at the Hope Hospital — the staff with me here — gave me the will to live,” she said.

As the only specialized facility within a large radius, Hope Hospital sees 8,500 to 9,500 cases a month, but its funds have begun to run dry and a second crowd-funding campaign did not meet its target. Staff hope Unicef will step in with a contract that would keep the facility running for another six months.

Read the full story at AFP.

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