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Syrian Conjoined Twins Evacuated From Embattled Rebel Stronghold

A Syrian Red Crescent team works to evacuate the conjoined twins to a hospital in Damascus on Friday.
Courtesy of the Syrian American Medical Society
A Syrian Red Crescent team works to evacuate the conjoined twins to a hospital in Damascus on Friday.

Newborn conjoined twins have been evacuated out of one of Syria's most embattled areas for urgent medical treatment, following an international appeal to save their lives.

Baby boys Moaz and Nawras were born in the besieged rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta in July 23. As the BBC reported, the twins "are joined at the chest with protruding intestines."

Eastern Ghouta's Zahra Hospita "is undersupplied and unable to provide the twins with the surgery they need to survive," said a letter from the Syrian American Medical Society, appealing for international help. The Damascus suburb has seen some of the war's fiercest fighting and was hit by a chemical weapons attack in 2014.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent was able to evacuate the 21-day-old twins to a hospital in the capital Damascus on Friday.

"We have been negotiating for medical evacuation for some days now," World Health Organization representative Elizabeth Hoff told Reuters. The twins' mother and aunt are accompanying them to the Children's Hospital, Hoff said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power tweeted a message of support for the rescue efforts. "Everyone should be pulling for Nawras & Moaz, lifting all obstacles to ensure they get the surgery they need," she wrote.

The family received good news this morning, SAMS advocacy manager Mohamad Katoub said on Twitter: the twins have two conjoined normal hearts. Now, he said they hope to evacuate Moaz and Nawras to Beirut, Lebanon, and have received "several offers for treatment abroad."

The lengthy negotiations to evacuate the twins point to broader issues with access to health care across Syria, especially in areas under siege. "Throughout the crisis, medical evacuations have been subject to negotiations between the Syrian government and humanitarian actors as well as other stakeholders and armed groups in Syria," the Syrian American Medical Society wrote in their letter. "The medical needs of the patients have remained a secondary consideration."

The World Health Organization "has received a list of 16 critical medical cases in the government-besieged town of Madaya who need evacuation and two adults in the opposition-besieged Foua and Kefraya area, in Idlib province," as Reuters reported.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, U.N. envoy Stephan de Mistura read the names of people needing urgent medical attention in Madaya and Foua.

"The UN is ready to evacuate them, they are in desperate, urgent medical emergency, why on earth this should not be possible?" he said. "These are not numbers, these are people who are waiting to be medically evacuated, in what has become a medieval approach to a conflict."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.

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