Middle East

Syrian conjoined twins die awaiting transfer abroad

Syrian Arab Red Crescent medics hold conjoined twins Nawras and Moaz before evacuating them from Douma (12 August 2016) Image copyright Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Image caption Nawras and Moaz required surgery that was only available outside Syria

One-month-old conjoined twin boys who were evacuated from a besieged rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus have died, medics say.

Nawras and Moaz Hashash were joined at the chest, with hearts in the same sac.

They were moved to a hospital in a government-controlled area on 12 August after doctors launched an appeal.

But on Wednesday, while waiting to travel abroad for surgery, the boys suffered heart failure and passed away, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said.

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a charity which supports hospitals and clinics in rebel-held areas and refugees elsewhere, had complained that the twins were unable to leave the country because they were not given permission.

The SARC said approval had been given but the boys were too ill to travel.

'Ridiculous process'

Moaz and Nawras weighed less than 12lb (5.4kg) when they were born by caesarean section on 23 July at the Zahra hospital in Douma, a town in the eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus.

Douma has been completely besieged by government forces for two years and the undersupplied hospital was unable to provide the twins with the care they required.

There are conflicting reports about why it took almost three weeks for the boys to be evacuated.

The SAMS and doctors in Douma said the government only gave permission for an SARC ambulance to pass through the frontline because of a social media campaign they mounted, using the Twitter hashtag "#EvacuateTheTwins".

Image copyright Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Image caption The boys to be transferred earlier this month after a social media appeal by doctors

But the SARC insisted the authorities had approved an evacuation on 24 July, and accused medics in Douma of refusing to allow them out.

After they had been moved to a private hospital in Damascus, SAMS warned that no facility in Syria was able to provide the surgery the twins needed and that they continued to suffer while waiting to be transferred abroad.

Last week, the charity's Turkey advocacy manager Mohamad Katoub told the Wall Street Journal he was worried the transfer was being delayed because offers for treatment had come from the US and Saudi Arabia, both of which support the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Katoub announced that the boys had died. "The whole world couldn't have the permission to evacuate them," he added.

He was later quoted by the pro-opposition website Enab Baladi as blaming "interference by the ministry of foreign affairs and its stalling of issuing a travel permit to any country to allow them to receive treatment".

The SARC said the twins had received treatment in intensive care while being "registered in the formal civil records and having passports issued for them".

But it added that the Bambino Gesu Children's Hospital in Rome had agreed to admit them and that "all formal leave approvals were signed in order to travel". "However, the bad general health condition [of the boys] was a hindrance."

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