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Omran: the little boy who is the face of Aleppo’s pain

Omran, the boy on the orange chair, has woken the world to what is happening to Aleppo's children.

Thousands of children like him are being bombed daily, killed daily... and the world is silent

Omran: the little boy who is the face of Aleppo’s pain

He’s called Omran. He used to live with his mother, father, brother and sister in Aleppo, Syria.

He and his family were injured when an air strike destroyed their house this week. Activists blame Bashir Assad’s Syrian regime for the bombings.

Aleppo, in northern Syria, has been besieged for years during the country’s civil war. An estimated 20,000 residents have been killed, including 4500 children.

A heartbreaking video of Omran, posted by the Aleppo Media Centre, has been circulating on social media.

It shows a civil defence worker carrying the little boy to an ambulance. His T-shirt is covered in dust, his face is bloody. He is silent amid the din, the confusion.

He did not cry at any time during the rescue.

“He was in extreme shock,” according to a spokesman for the centre, an activist group.

He looks dazed as he sits on an orange side in the ambulance, his hands on his lap, as he waits for somebody to help him.

He raises his left hand to his eye and feels the area around his temple as if he has been hit there. He wipes his face and looks down at the blood.

But Omran has had a lucky escape.

“The truth is that the image is repeated every day in Aleppo,” said Mustafa al Sarouq, a cameraman with the centre, who filmed the video.

“Every day we cover these massacres and these war crimes in Aleppo. When we go to the places that have been bombed, regime planes circle around and bomb it again to kill rescue workers that are helping civilians. They kill these people who are trying to rescue people,” he told CNN.

It took nearly an hour to dig Omran and several other people out from underneath the rubble. Video shows another boy, younger than Omran, being placed on a stretcher on the same ambulance. A third shell-shocked man stumbles out of the collapsed building and walks into the ambulance.

Omran has now been released from the hospital.

The doctor who treated him said his injury was light compared to the others wounded in the bombing.

His mother and brother, who were seriously injured, were smuggled out of Aleppo, and the family is now staying with relatives.

“The whole world is silent to these crimes in Aleppo against women and children,” said Sarouq.

“There are thousands of children like Omran who are being bombed daily, killed daily… Everyday this city is hit with every type of weapon, with every type of crime.

“The living conditions are terrible. The only route out of the city is totally unusable, it is shut.

“This regime and these militias are killing children and specifically the children of Aleppo. These crimes must be stopped in Aleppo.”

Some 1.5 to 2 million people still remain in Aleppo, once considered Syria’s largest city. It is now divided into rebel-held and government-held areas. Those still there face a terrible choice.

Should they stay in a city subjected to relentless bombing and risk their lives and those of their children?

Or embark on a perilous journey across the sea, and endanger the lives of their families?

Hope is far from reach for Omran and thousands of others like him.

The United Nations has been forced to halt nearly all aid deliveries in Syria, faced with the escalating fighting.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, estimates 8.4 million children are in need of humanitarian aid in Syria and neighbouring countries.

The UN’s deputy secretary-general said he hoped Omran’s story and image would get to people’s hearts and brains. “I think the whole world has failed the Syrian people,” said Jan Eliasson.

So how can we help? You may feel lost but there are ways we can all help to make a difference and change the future for these children and their families.

Learn how you can lend a helping hand here. 

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