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A Syrian Doctor's Bid To Build A Bomb-Proof Hospital For Women And Girls

War has dismantled Syria's healthcare system, preventing women and children from receiving life-saving treatment for preventable illnesses. Exiled doctor Khaled Almilaji is determined to do something about it.

Syrian man helping build the Avicenna Women & Children's Hospital
Syrian man helping build the Avicenna Women & Children's Hospital
Alexandra Bradford

For a few days in October, a tiny, starving baby became the face of the war in Syria. Images of one-month-old Sahhar Dofdaa, from Syria's opposition-held Eastern Ghouta, showed her fragile, less than 2-kilo body, with sunken eyes and bones protruding beneath her thin gray skin. The news of her passing highlighted how the conflict contributes to preventable deaths, especially among women and children, the population's most vulnerable members.

When Syrian doctor Khaled Almilaji saw the photos of Sahar, he thought she wasn't just suffering from malnutrition, as had been originally reported, but probably also had a chronic or congenital disease. The baby girl had been treated by a local doctor, but Almilaji believes if she had been able to access a dedicated hospital for women and children, she might have lived. "Her disease could have been alleviated by good medical care," he says.

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Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

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In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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