Thank you for visiting this special page dedicated to highlighting the remarkable work of Dr David Nott with Syria Relief.
Click here to read this personal message from David.
David is an internationally renowned trauma surgeon, with over 20 years of experience of working in dangerous and unpredictable conflict and post-conflict areas. During his career, he has helped thousands of wounded civilians in dozens of countries – people who have found themselves, through no fault of their own, caught up in indiscriminate attacks during outbreaks of conflict. David’s skills and expertise in conflict zone surgery are invaluable in saving lives at the sharp end, and his considerable experience in reconstructive surgery has enabled him to offer his patients a chance to lead a normal life.
Having worked in Syria in 2012 with MSF, David approached Syria Relief in 2013, to see if we could arrange for him to work in some of the frontline hospitals that we support and fund. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity – his expert skills would be invaluable in helping the people of Syria. Not only that, he would be able to pass on some of those skills to scores of brave Syrian doctors working under extremely difficult conditions.
Although this was not David’s first trip to war-torn Syria, he referred to it as “the most troubling experience of my life”. David worked in frontline hospitals across a large area of Northern Syria and witnessed the sheer brutality of the conflict. Each day brought dozens of new patients, severely injured by air strikes, barrel bombs and sniper fire.
It was during this trip that David and his Syrian colleagues noticed an alarming pattern to many of the injuries being brought to the Emergency Room – there were a large of number of women, especially pregnant women, being brought in with bullet wounds, as if deliberately targeted by snipers. In one particularly tragic case, David had to remove an almost full-term foetus from its mother’s womb, with a bullet lodged in its head.
Even with everything he had previously witnessed, he found this experience particularly distressing. The X-ray of the foetus was printed in newspapers throughout the world, and, at every opportunity, David actively highlighted the distressing rise of civilian casualties in Syria, especially amongst women and children, to the outside world.
During his first trip with Syria Relief, David performed over 160 life-saving and reconstructive operations. When he was out of the operating theatre, David spent his time teaching and training the Syrian surgeons, giving presentations and demonstrations on innovative, life-saving Conflict-Zone Surgery techniques, actively training dozens of Syrian surgeons.
Back home in London, David appeared on BBC’s current affairs program “Hard Talk.” He also spoke on Radio 4’s PM with Eddie Mair on New Year’s Day, in an interview that brought home the catastrophic situation inside Syria.
During this latest visit, David was closely followed by a media team, to document this remarkable journey to hospitals supported and funded by Syria Relief. The extensive footage was edited and the resulting ground-breaking documentary ‘A&E In The War Zone’ was broadcast on Channel 4 on Wednesday, 10th December, 2014.
The hour-long documentary, is as compelling, tense and moving, as it is often shocking in its portrayal of the plight of Syrian civilians, subjected to indiscriminate and incessant bombardment. The programme also highlighted the extraordinary courage of the Syrian medical teams, who are working in extremely challenging and dangerous conditions. The film is still available to watch on 4OD. Due to the graphic nature of the documentary, which shows the aftermath of barrel bomb attacks we strongly advise viewer discretion.
Whilst David was working in Syria, five of his Syrian colleagues were killed in air bombardment. One of those killed was an anaesthetic technician that David had operated with only the day before. He told us that the image of this colleague alive one day, and then dead the next, is “keeping me awake at night.”
David constantly fears for the safety of other Syrian medical workers who are working tirelessly in very dangerous conditions. He is concerned about the lack of funding and shortage of supplies reaching these hospitals. Medicines and equipment are quickly running out whilst the need is constantly escalating. As the documentary shows, there is a near-complete collapse of Syria’s healthcare system. The few remaining hospitals have become the only source of healthcare for many communities and patients have to travel great distances to receive basic medical care.
During David’s trip, Syria Relief received the alarming news that Mare’e Hospital in rural Aleppo was threatened with closure due to lack of funding, leaving a large civilian population without any emergency medical care. Thankfully, and almost entirely due to the kindness and generosity of the British public and the Syrian expat community in the UK, we are delighted to say that we, in collaboration with the Syrian British Medical Society (SBMS), have managed to raise enough funds to keep the hospital open – at least for the time being.
David described the damage caused by barrel bombs to cities as “mind-blowing.” He wanted to visit a hospital that he worked at in 2013, only to realise that it was completely destroyed, and that, due to security concerns, had moved to underground premises. Understandably, Syria Relief was very nervous about Dr. Nott’s return to one of the most heavily bombed areas in Syria. However he insisted on visiting the hospital to catch up with his fellow medical workers, and to see for himself the damage caused by the continuous bombing.
In recognition of David’s hard work we have decided to launch the David Nott Medical Fund for Syria. Donations made to this fund will go directly to supporting hospitals and healthcare staff inside Syria, and towards our other medical aid programmes that we run in collaboration with the SBMS to help Syrian civilians. Your donations will ensure that hospitals continue receiving medicines, drugs, equipment, dressings and staff wages, as well as other essential items such as generators and fuel.
Please continue to support this vital cause.
Syria Relief would like to stress that it strongly discourages any individuals from travelling to Syria.
David Nott is an experienced surgeon who is well versed in the issues of personal security, and has vast experience in working in conflict zones throughout the world. Dr. Nott approached Syria Relief asking us to facilitate his trip, and it was quite clear he was determined to go.
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