A Syrian child, this time it was 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, finally made the front page again. It is sad that it took this long for people to pay attention to Syria once more.
We are three Chicago physicians who have volunteered inside underground field hospitals in Aleppo, Syria. The children we treated have never stopped living in hell.
The first child we met this summer was a 5-year-old named Ahmad. Shrapnel from a barrel bomb cut his spinal cord and paralyzed him from the chest down. He was gasping for breath as doctors placed him on life support. His father asked the same question every day: "What's happening to my son?" He lasted three days and two rounds of CPR. His heart eventually gave out, and we had to let him go. He was then wrapped into a white shroud — another dead, invisible and forgotten Syrian child taken to be buried.
Pictures we have of other victims are too gruesome to show. We had to perform amputations on mutilated children. We saw them burned beyond recognition, crushed to death, their bodies ripped open. The images of mothers and fathers grieving and refusing to let go of the blood-stained shrouds of their loved ones were even harder for us to bear.
The world expresses outrage and solidarity for these children in episodic shocks — sporadic images of bloodied kids caked in rubble or lifeless on a beach. Then the media abruptly return to celebrity divorces and political demagogues.
Armchair pundits say Syria is complicated and horrible, but it's too late to do anything. We dare them to spend one day volunteering in a Syrian field hospital, amputating children's limbs and placing the dead in body bags. Then have them tell us nothing can or should be done. Our Syrian medical colleagues endure these atrocities every day and wonder why the world has remained sidelined for the past five years.
The international community needs to look beyond Syria as just a vacuum for terrorism. The coalition bombing of Raqqa 100 times per day instead of 10 times per day will not eliminate the terrorism of the Islamic State.
The primary terror in Syria falls from Syrian government helicopters and jets — barrel bombs, cluster bombs and napalm. Allowing the Syrian government to bomb its own children, hospitals and schools on a daily basis — that is what causes terrorism and engendered this whole mess in the first place.
The world would never tolerate a terrorist group that for five years systematically burned schoolchildren alive with napalm, suffocated them with nerve gas, dismembered them at grocery markets with barrel bombs and starved families to death in their own villages. The Syrian government and its allies institute these scorched-earth measures every day as a matter of policy.
Creating a no-fly zone and grounding the Syrian air force would be a good place to start. The U.S. and its allies have the power to do this. Coalition air power is already in force over Syrian airspace. It will not solve everything, but an end to these airstrikes will save lives and limbs on a scale that hospitals can't. The airstrikes have disproportionately killed more innocent civilians and caused more destruction and displacement than any armed party in this conflict. It has to start somewhere, and no peace or cease-fire can be negotiated as long as the Syrian air force terrorizes the skies. At some point, President Barack Obama must stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syria's Bashar Assad.
Syrian children don't need tears, hugs and a day of outrage on the front page once a year. They need action. Years of silence, apathy and indifference are as responsible for their death and suffering as bombs.
Samer Attar is an orthopedic surgeon with Northwestern Medicine; John Kahler is a pediatrician with ACCESS Community Health Network; Dr Zaher Sahloul is a critical care specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. All are volunteers with the Syrian American Medical Society.