BEIRUT, July 23 (DPA/EP) –
Dozens of cancer patients in a rebel enclave in Syria staged a sit-in protest on Saturday to pressure neighboring Turkey to give them access to medical treatment.
Protesters have set up tents and beds at the Bab al Hawa border crossing, the key gate for humanitarian aid in northwest Syria, since their action has been presented as indefinite, eyewitnesses have reported.
“I have leukemia,” Hussien Abdel Karim explained to DPA. “If I don’t get treatment, my health will deteriorate. My situation is miserable.”
The patients have claimed that Turkey has stopped hosting them for treatment since a strong earthquake struck the Turkey-Syria border region in February.
Hasan al Alawi, the father of a three-year-old boy suffering from brain cancer, has declared: “We ask Turkey to open the border. Bab al Hawa is the only step for us. If Turkey does not open the border, my son will have a relapse and die,” he assured.
The health director of Idlib province — in northwestern Syria –, Dr. Zuheir Karat, has pointed out that 20 percent of cancer patients in the province are children.
Idlib has a non-profit cancer center supported by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), but it only offers chemotherapy to a small number of patients.
After the earthquake, 259 cancer patients, who had previously been treated inside Turkey, were able to re-enter it, according to the head of the health program at the Bab al Hawa border crossing, Dr. Bashir Ismail.
However, there are 600 new cases that urgently need to be allowed to enter Turkey for treatment.