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Mum's terrible trauma as she tried to kill her own baby to free her from the living nightmare in Syria

Mirror Mirror 9/10/2016 Dan Warburton

Mais, a two-month-old baby, was stabbed by her own mother<br /> © Provided by Mirror Mais, a two-month-old baby, was stabbed by her own mother
A tiny hand reaches out from a hospital crib in a heartrending image that reveals a new, unimaginable hell in war torn Aleppo.

Baby Mais is two months old and already bears the scars of a harrowing conflict which has wiped out most of her family.

But it is not the relentless air strikes and barrel bombs which put Mais in hospital.

The tot was stabbed by her own mother, who then tried to kill herself in a desperate bid to end their nightmare existence.

The traumatised mother was already grieving the deaths of her husband and two sons when she launched her attack.

Little Mais was knifed in the stomach and survived, while her mother was treated for her injuries and arrested.

Medics say the woman is one of TEN attempted suicides in the past fortnight alone by mothers “engulfed with guilt” that they cannot protect their children.

UNICEF’s Syrian representative Hanaa Singer is holding Mais’ fingers.

Mais, a two-month-old baby in the Aleppo University Hospital<br /> © Provided by Mirror Mais, a two-month-old baby in the Aleppo University Hospital
Through tears, she revealed the baby’s ordeal and spelled out the horrific reality faced by Aleppo’s 250,000 inhabitants.

Hanaa said: “The mother said killing her baby and sending her to heaven was better than the hell they were living in.

“It’s a mental breakdown. I can’t talk about it without crying, without being very emotional.

“I went to the children’s ward, in the incubator area, and this doctor just put this gorgeous girl in my hands, she was only two months old.

“She had a wound in her tummy because her mother had stabbed her after birth.

“The family had been displaced five times in three years, she lost both her sons and her husband in the war recently and in the end she just couldn’t cope.

“But holding that baby showed me the power of resilience, the power of life. It shows the power of life always beats cruelty.

“There is always hope, this beautiful, gorgeous baby is healing and surviving very well. The doctors performed a miracle.”

But it needs an even bigger miracle to bring a halt to the wider suffering in rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

As Russian and Syrian forces rain bombs down, victims pour into creaking hospitals.

Children bleed to death on hospital floors or are left writhing in bloody clothes on trolleys. There are few doctors – just 25 in the city’s five functioning hospitals.

A Syrian girl holds a placard during a rally in solidarity with Aleppo<br /> © Provided by Mirror A Syrian girl holds a placard during a rally in solidarity with Aleppo
And the victims just keep coming.

The city’s 100,000 bewildered children are battling hunger and illness. Many huddle with parents in windowless underground shelters – anywhere that might, just might, save them in this killing zone.

Alun McDonald, of Save the Children, said: “They’re trapped and they have no way of escaping.”

UNICEF’s Hanaa, who spent the last two weeks in Aleppo, added: “The impact on the mental health has been tragic.

“It’s particularly bad on mothers, women, it’s what touched me most, they are engulfed with guilt that they can’t provide for their children.

“I visited hospitals and there’s a high rate of attempted suicide or suicide – more than 10 cases in the last couple of weeks.

“There’s just amazing pain, amazing suffering. They are living under constant fear – ‘When is it going to hit me next’?”

The World Health Organisation claims that in the last week of September 338 people, including 106 children, were killed in Aleppo. Another 1,100 have been wounded – including 261 children.

Egyptian-born Hanaa, who has carried out humanitarian work for 25 years in Kazhakstan, Chechnya and Haiti, believes she is witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis in history.

She said at least 80 per cent of children in Aleppo have witnessed violence.

Taps are running dry, with the main pumping stations in the Bab al-Nayrab and Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhoods destroyed by bombs.

Hanaa said from Damascus: “In one day when I was there at least 25 people – five children – were killed. There’s a constant fear of death. I think this is the worst humanitarian crisis ever, it’s been too long and the damage to the country is tragic.

Aleppo has been brutally bombed<br /> © Provided by Mirror Aleppo has been brutally bombed
“We went to a school and one of the children described how a mortar hit his neighbour while he was collecting water – his head was sliced and he could see gory details.

"This was a nine-year-old boy recounting this. Doctors are too overwhelmed by the number of injured children, so it’s impossible to treat all of them.

“They are having to leave the most ­seriously injured children to die. It’s a terrible decision that any health worker would have to make.

“Medics are counting on reserves that they have in the city. They are relying on supplies being smuggled in to the city. Supplies are short, they live day to day, it’s already a very dark situation.

“There’s an outpouring of grief. People who have been internally displaced because their homes have been destroyed.

“On average they are displaced between four and six times, constantly moving around temporary accommodation.

“Armed groups have encroached on Aleppo and people are running for their lives. You can imagine the impact on the family, you can imagine the impact on the children.

“With every displacement is the ­devastation, the loss, the death. People are continually losing security and people are scared.

“I’ve been to Syria six or seven times and usually people are very resilient. But this time is the first time where I had people having meltdowns, breaking down in tears. This time they’ve had it.”

Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble<br /> © Provided by Mirror Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble

Russia and the US agreed a ceasefire last month but the truce collapsed when an aid convoy was attacked, killing 20.

And yesterday, as Aleppo continued to stumble from one crisis to another, doctors revealed yet more horror from within hospital walls.

Abu Khalid, an orthopaedic surgeon and director of a Medicine Sans Frontier-backed hospital, said: “I have seen people with injuries I cannot describe – injuries I haven’t even read about in textbooks.

“One day we received a young girl who had lost half of her body, but was still conscious and able to talk to us. She was in pain and she asked me to stop the pain.

“We carried out the surgery, even though a body without a pelvis and limbs cannot survive.

“We moved her to the intensive care unit and after some hours she woke up. She saw her family one last time before she passed away.

“A human being dies in front of you and you can’t do anything to prevent it.”

I had never felt pain like this. At the top of the stairs in the Edhi Orphanage in Karachi – moments away from the baby girl I was about to adopt being put into my arms – I fell to my knees with the pain of loss and heartache for the woman who had given away her child.

I felt her pain as a mother, as a woman and as a human being.

Saira Khan<br /> © Provided by Mirror Saira Khan
Although I didn’t know her specific reason for giving up Amara for adoption, the fact that she had taken her to a safe place meant she wanted the best for her.

A mother’s primal instinct is to protect her children at all times from any danger. So what would you do if you were a mother in Aleppo and your city was being carpet-bombed and destroyed around you?

If you had no food or water for your baby? What does a mother do faced with desperation, danger and disease and no safe haven? What instinct kicks in then?

Horrifyingly, in the brutal onslaught of Aleppo, some women have been driven to suicide and infanticide – they believe they are better off dead than alive. Of course that’s wrong.

Of course there must be a better way or a more humane solution...but what?

Must they stay and watch their children be blown up by a bomb, like the 100 killed last week?

Try to reach a camp where women and children may be subjected to further abuse and exploitation? Or should they risk drowning as they try to flee the dangers by boat?

As parents we must not become numb to the atrocities we are seeing and hearing about there. We cannot sit and judge the desperate actions some women have taken when there is no help in sight and no end to their nightmare.

Put yourself in their shoes and ask: What would I do? Only then can you scratch the surface of their despair.

It saddens me to the core that in 2016 our world has to witness such human degradation.

The Conflict

Syria's brutal, complex civil war goes back five years to pro-democracy protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in neighbouring countries.

It was in April 2011 that army tanks crushed a rebellion in the southern city of Deraa.

The iron fist response was enough to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power. But it spawned an even bigger conflict as rebel groups fuelled by sectarian, political and internal divisions, tried to overthrow the regime.

There are 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding 100,000 fighters. They range from al-Qaeda backed al-Nusra Front to the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.

Millions of refugees poured out of Syria and the West was accused of standing by idly as the country imploded.

Throughout 2012 Syria faced international pressure over claims of torture, kidnap and murder against protesters.

In August 2013, a suspected chemical weapons attack killed hundreds on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

Islamic State forces seized territory as the conflict descended into an even bloodier stalemate.

Russia threw its weight behind Assad a year ago. It said airstrikes were directed at IS but the West and Syrian opposition say they overwhelmingly targeted anti-Assad rebels.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks Britain joined US-led bombing raids against IS in Syria.

A ceasefire collapsed last month, leaving the rebel-held city of Aleppo facing more shelling.

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