I expected the worst, but I continued to operate. They were about to blow us up, and I thought to myself: if that happens, I fulfilled my duty
The Arab Spring, a series of social protests and military conflicts that took place in the Arab countries in the years 2010-2013, erupted as a result of discontent with life conditions, unemployment, corruption and nepotism of the authorities as well as with limiting civic liberties by autocratic regimes.
In Syria, protests turned into a civil war, waged between those faithful to President Bashar al-Assad and the armed opposition. Their fight evolved into a regional conflict. The escalation was caused by involvement of the neighbouring countries and world powers. The situation is further complicated by the presence of the Islamic extremists of the ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; in short: the Islamic State) as well as by the conflict between various groups within the opposition.
The lasting conflict resulted in one of the largest humanitarian crises in the modern world. 13.5 million people are seeking help. The situation in the country is extremely difficult. The families fleeing danger – over 10.5 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes – live in tents or ruins, with the things they managed to collect and take with them. They suffer from shortage of drinkable water and toilets. A quarter of schools are defunct, the healthcare is significantly limited. Many Syrians are trying to escape to Europe, which is both dangerous and costly.
“If this is the end, I want to hold that girl’s hand.” For the past 23 years David Nott, a Welsh surgeon, has been taking an unpaid leave and spending three months in the areas affected by conflicts or catastrophes. The aforementioned girl was being operated on during the anticipated air raids in the Gaza Strip.
David knows perfectly well what injuries can be inflicted on a human body. In cooperation with Doctors Without Frontiers, the International Red Cross and Syria Relief, he treated victims in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Chad, Darfur, Yemen, Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, the Gaza Strip, Nepal and – within the past four years – Syria. “I expected the worst, but I continued to operate. They were about to blow us up, and I thought to myself: if that happens, I fulfilled my duty.”
In 2015, Dr Nott with his wife Elly launched The David Nott Foundation The David Nott Foundation in London. They organize training for surgeons who find themselves in war-torn areas. Amongst others, Dr Nott taught Syrians, refugees in southern Turkey.
“Healthcare is seen as a weapon,” he said in an interview for The Independent in January 2016. “You take out one doctor, you take out 10,000 people he or she can no longer care for.”
Dr Nott belongs to a non-formal network of surgeons who supported – by way of instant messengers – medical personnel in Aleppo under siege. He described the situation in the city as “apocalyptic.” Local medical doctors transmitted images of patients via their cell phones, and Dr Nott – watching them on his computer screen in London – advised them on how to proceed with the surgery while it was underway.
He stresses that he helps everyone who is in need, regardless of which side of the conflict he or she represents.