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Chicago Doctor Seeks To Bring Global Attention To Suffering In Syria

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In the last 72 hours, the United Nations reports more than 250,000 people have been displaced from Syrian towns and villages near Idlib.

A local doctor was just back from that war-ravaged city on Sunday, and Dr. Zaher Sahloul was horrified what he saw.

As CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reported, Sahloul traveled to a province that has seen its population triple as 2 million people have fled there in hopes of escaping the seemingly relentless bombs.

It has been called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"We are talking about a scale of displacement because of the recent bombing by the Russians and the Syrian regime that we have not witnessed," said Sahloul, president of Medglobal.

And that's saying a lot, since half a million people have already been killed in the 9-year war being waged against Syrian rebels.

Three young children died Sunday in a Russian airstrike.

"It's too much," Sahloul said.

Sahloul's eyes were welling with tears, because the Chicago doctor was just back from his native Syria and couldn't get his mind off what he witnessed.

"I don't believe that people pay attention to it," he said.

So to try and bring global attention to the suffering of civilians, he traveled into the warzone last month and photographed a soccer stadium that had been turned into a tent city.

"The Syrian regime and Russia have been bombing non-stop," Sahloul said.

And one day after the photos were taken, the stadium was bombed. Eighteen people died, including six children.

Sahloul said the Russian-backed Syrian regime is openly ignoring rules of war.

"Hospitals are bombed, schools are bombed, neighborhoods are bombed," he said.

A 12-year-old girl named Ahlam is among the more than 6 million Syrians now displaced within her country.

"There is no school," she said through an interpreter. "In my village, I used to play with my friends at school. My friends were killed in an airstrike. I survived and came here."

The camp where Ahlam lives and others like it are now home to a million people trying to survive amid the mud.

Here, just getting into a tent can be a challenge, and riding a dirt bike is even harder.

And collecting and chopping sticks for a fire to stave off freezing temperatures can be matter of life and death.

"The children are agonized from the cold," a man said through an interpreter.

Still, what Sahloul remembers as he treats patients 6,000 miles away in Chicago isn't the misery of the camp, but the resourcefulness of young caregivers forced to grow up too soon.

He also remembers the artistry of children who use mud to paint the beauty in their hearts. They are children who despite deplorable conditions, joined with adults in singing a song of survival and resilience.

A quarter of all the world's refugees are Syrian, and Sahloul says unless the world does something, the number of displaced people will continue to skyrocket.

Sahloul brought $200,000 raised by Medglobal to help the displaced. But he said although money is needed, it is really the attention of the world that is needed most.

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