‘Were you able to sew it back on?” That was the question a 9-year-old Syrian boy asked me when he woke from surgery. His hand was obliterated after a helicopter dropped a barrel bomb on his school. All I could do was clean his wound, wrap it with gauze, and tell him he was going to be all right. Deep inside I knew I couldn’t even promise him that. I still saw helicopters passing outside. Life in a Syrian hospital means anticipating death at every moment.
Barrel bombs are metal cylinders and drums packed with explosives and shrapnel that are pushed out of Syrian government helicopters. They cannot be aimed. They are indiscriminately dropped onto civilians, houses schools and hospitals. Upon impact, they pancake buildings and pulverize limbs and bodies. They have killed and maimed thousands, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.