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World

Life In Aleppo Improves During Syrian Cease-Fire

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's get one perspective on life in Syria's cessation of hostilities - that's what diplomats call a plan to halt some of the shooting in a disastrous war. The cease-fire was supposed to improve life in the devastated city of Aleppo. In that city, Dr. Rami Kalazi says that for a while, it did.

RAMI KALAZI: Indeed, these couple weeks ago were actually much comfortable for us. We didn't see these airplanes, these helicopters, these barrel bombs. The clashes were in the most minimum, actually.

INSKEEP: Dr. Kalazi works at an improvised hospital. It's in a rebel area not far from the battle lines. The hospital stayed busy when the shooting died down, but the type of traffic was strangely hopeful.

KALAZI: The patients, which are not emergency or urgent, they have increased because the situation became much safer.

INSKEEP: People were arriving not with gunshot wounds, but simply because they were sick. They felt safe enough to go out and seek ordinary medical care. So there was a pause in the shooting. And then, in recent days, the doctor started hearing explosions again.

KALAZI: We have experienced again the barrel bombs, the airplanes, the clashes. So it's now not safe. It's like the situation before the cease-fire.

INSKEEP: You've called your hospital a field hospital. What is it, exactly?

KALAZI: The most specific feature for - to be a field hospital - that you are targeted. It's in Syria like this. So we have been damaged several times and repair this place. And now we are trying to work underground because we are always being targeted.

INSKEEP: And you spend most of your time in the basement.

KALAZI: Yes.

INSKEEP: How many patients do you have in the hospital right now?

KALAZI: The total in a month, it's about 5 to 6,000.

INSKEEP: How many beds do you have?

KALAZI: We have four ICU beds, and we have 15 beds in the ward.

INSKEEP: So you have 19 beds, and you're sometimes treating hundreds of people per day.

KALAZI: Yes. So too many times we are obligated to transfer patients to other hospitals.

INSKEEP: About how far is your facility from the front line?

KALAZI: Our hospital is relatively close. I think it's about three kilometers.

INSKEEP: Do you ever have that moment of panic of thinking the enemy might be coming?

KALAZI: Yes. Once we heard that the Syrian regime forces are only less than one kilometer to our hospital. So we have this panic, and we didn't know what to do. Should we flee? Should we stay? Should we fight? We didn't know what we should have to do.

INSKEEP: Have you thought about joining the flow of refugees into Turkey and beyond?

KALAZI: No, actually. I was living in Turkey - my wife and my baby - for only one and a half year. But then we have returned to Syria because it's our home.

INSKEEP: How's your family doing?

KALAZI: They are safe. When the situation is much dangerous, I transfer them to Idlib because it is much safer, actually, because there is a cease-fire there. We could move for some days or some weeks and then return to here.

INSKEEP: Thank you very much.

KALAZI: Thanks a lot.

INSKEEP: Rami Kalazi, talking here by Skype, is a neurosurgeon in Syria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.