Rheumatic fever increasing in Syria as a result of soaring poverty

Rheumatic fever is a condition that is very rare in the West. It is a serious complication resulting from an untreated streptococcal throat infection. If it develops and goes untreated there is a high chance of sustaining damage to the heart.

We have been treating this 14 year old girl for rheumatic fever which did not respond to initial treatment. Our team removed her tonsils last week in Al Hayat* Hospital in Syria and she will need long term antibiotics to protect her from developing further complications and potential damage to her heart.

The last years have been tough for her and her family living in Aleppo through the conflict. She has four sisters and a brother who has severe learning disabilities. They lost their home, and the only things they managed to take with them were their identification papers, no clothes or any other essential things.

After this they had to flee from place to place many more times and eventually ended up sheltering in a garage with some other displaced families. They stayed there for 6 months.

If this was not traumatic enough, these children then lost their father who died tragically leaving her widowed mother struggling to care for six children with no support. It has been a great struggle for this woman to cope with six children, living in such poor conditions.

The news that her daughter needed an operation to treat her illness couldn't have come at a worse time. Our hospital was able to treat this girl free of charge. It is something that we wouldn't even need to worry about here in the U.K., but in Syria nothing is taken for granted. So many illnesses are going untreated now as people can't access or afford the medical care they need.

Since the start of the conflict in Syria there has been a significant increase in cases of rheumatic fever. Before the war it was less common, but our medical teams have treated numerous cases over the last months. It is linked with poverty and poor living conditions which have become life-threatening complications of the conflict in Syria.

It is a privilege for us to be able to support families like this who are struggling to survive, by giving them free medical care and helping with clothing, shoes and hygiene items. This girl and her siblings are among the 7 million children now living in poverty in Syria, and are also among the 1.75 million children who are now out of school because of the conflict.

The unbearable conditions that these and so many other children in Syria are living in pose a great threat to health and ultimately to life. We are doing everything we can with the limited resources available to us to support the most vulnerable people in a variety of ways including providing clothes and shoes, water, food, hygiene items and life-saving medical care.

What can this generation in Syria ultimately look forward to or try to plan for? Peace, education, safety, healthcare, a clean home, food and clothing shouldn't seem like a lot to ask for. Yet for millions of children across Syria, even if they ask they won't get. At least not in the short to medium term. In war there are no winners, just a multitude of losers.

To find out more about our life-saving work please visitwww.samarasaidappeal.org