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Syria: Italian hospital continues to operate in Damascus

Salesians treat wounded and help poor families in the capital

07 November, 12:02

    (ANSAmed) - DAMASCUS - The Italian Hospital of Damascus has been operating in the Mazraa area of the Syrian capital since 1913 under the direction of Salesian nuns. The surgical center has treated Palestinian and Iraqi refugees as well as Syrian citizens, and for the past two years it has been providing free treatment to those injured by attacks on the capital. ''There have been days in which 30 injured arrived and we had to put them in the corridors and work as well as we could - all of us, doctors, nurses and nuns,'' said the head of the nuns, Mother Annamaria Scarsella, who moved to Syria in 2011 after 41 years in Mexican schools and missions including in the Chiapas region. One can hear, from time to time, the cannons being shot from government positions at the suburbs held by rebel forces, who in turn hit the central areas of the capital on an almost daily basis with mortars and rockets. One the latter hit the apostolic nunciature on Tuesday a few kilometres from here, but did not cause any casualties. However, on other Christian areas lying further out the bombardment is unceasing. Like in Jaramana in the southern part of the city, where 2,800 Howitzer shells have fallen since the beginning of the conflict.

    The Syrian nun Widad Abiad told ANSA about the hospital, located in an old but well-kept building, with its 55 beds and 70 doctors. ''This year marks the hospital's 100th anniversary. It was founded by the Egyptologist Ernesto Schiapparelli. During WWII, it was occupied by the British and only one nun remained. Later its activities resumed.'' The hospital is now one of the few things the population can count on in the conflict shaking the capital. There is also the nearby Salesian oratory and catechism center attended by 200 children and 300 adolescents, which also hands out food to families in need and provides psychological assistance, training courses and academic support.

    ''We accept Christian children of any denomination,'' said the director, the Venezuelan priest Alejandro Jose' Leon.

    Aleppo-born Munir Hanashi, 29, helps him out after just being ordained following five years of study in Turin. Another Salesian from the community is Luciano Burati, 65, who spent 25 years in Qamishli near the Turkish border and who now runs a home in Kafrun in the Homs province. There, in Wadi al-Nasara (The Valley of the Christians) 40 displaced Christians from Aleppo are housed. ''There are many families from our community that are struggling,'' said Father Leon. ''Many of those working in tourism and in European embassies that have closed have lost their jobs. All of this adds to the daily dangers.'' (ANSAmed).

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