'Last hope': The doctors providing 'desperately needed' treatment in Syria

This video contains distressing images

Volunteer doctors from the UK have continued to help provide life-changing medical assistance in Syria as part of a week long mission supporting colleagues in the country.

Syria has been left devastated by a more than decade long civil war and powerful earthquake, which struck earlier in 2023.

As part of the visit, Elly Nott, CEO and Co-Founder of the David Nott Foundation - a British based charity - has journaled for ITV News what humanitarian support the foundation delivers in Syria and what the most recent trip involved.

Words by Elly Nott , CEO and Co-Founder, David Nott Foundation

The David Nott Foundation's mission was born in northwest Syria and we returned to the region last week for a very special homecoming.

We ran a surgical mission at the UOSSM Aqrabat Hospital with Action for Humanity-Syria Relief (AfH) - a fellow British NGO - in response to the earthquake which has caused mass destruction in Syria and Turkey.

In 2013 and 2014, my Co-Founder and husband, David Nott, travelled to Syria with AfH.

Back then, David and our mission leader, Ammar Darwish, spent weeks at a time in underground hospitals in eastern Aleppo, operating all day and teaching Syrian surgeons when night fell.

The week-long mission was conducted in partnership between the David Nott Foundation and Action for Humanity. Credit: Annabel Moeller

Last week, operating and training were again combined.

Aqrabat sits in Syria's northwest - the last territorial outpost of the Syrian Revolution. It is a region sustained by a remarkable network of civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), yet it remains vulnerable.

The hospital is among a network that serves a population of around four million - the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Some 2.6 million residents have already been forcibly and repeatedly displaced from their homes by the conflict, from places such as Ghouta, Dara'a, Homs, and Aleppo.

People have also faced a series of crises, including food and fuel shortages and a cholera outbreak.

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With ongoing conflict and the recent earthquake, the need for well-trained surgeons is acute.

After hearing that specialist doctors were visiting, 2,000 people travelled to the hospital the previous week - 300 were seen in clinic and 65 received operations.

In the rooms above theatres, 35 doctors were surgically trained to better manage complex trauma injuries.

The trainees who received our Hostile Environment Surgical Training (HEST) course included newly qualified and specialised surgeons from nine hospitals across northwest Syria.

They were eager to learn and the feedback was positive, pointing to improved skills and wishing they had received this training before.

Syrian surgeons receive Hostile Environment Surgical Training (HEST) training. Credit: Annabel Moeller

Our course was also delivered in Arabic by local trainers, supporting our goal of making our training both accessible and sustainable, empowering local doctors with the skills needed to help their communities and continue supporting their colleagues long after we have left.

The months of preparation, negotiation with relevant authorities, and stewarding a dozen cases of equipment from London to the Syrian northwest faded to memory the moment we crossed the border.

Especially for our Syrian trainers, despite the sadness and horror that has passed, seeing Syria again still evokes a sense of happiness, a sense of pride.

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