Entries in Reporter's Notebook (2)


In Northern Syria, 'Staggering' Devastation Amid Ghost Towns


Scott Peterson/Getty ImagesREPORTER'S NOTEBOOK By Alex Marquardt and Enjoli Francis

(ALLEPO, Syria) -- As the sun came over the horizon, word came that the border was clear.

We raced up the hill, hiding from a nearby Turkish military post, and crossed through a gaping hole in the border fence.

The Syrian Army is increasingly scarce in this part of northern Syria. The free Syrian flag waved in the first village in which we arrived.

But the army's presence is felt everywhere. Like in the town of Atareb, just 15 miles from Aleppo, which was shelled heavily by tanks and rockets.

The devastation here is absolutely staggering. There is hardly a building that hasn't been damaged in some fashion. And it's essentially a ghost town. Everyone has fled. We were told that there are villages and towns like this all across the region.

Two who remained: Kayes Mahmoud, a farmer, and his 2-year-old niece, Amina.

"We couldn't leave the house," he said of the fighting. "How could we go out while rockets are falling all the time?"

Mahmoud said regime forces had executed his brother and burned down his house.

"In several years, when this is hopefully all over, how will you explain to your baby niece what happened here?" I asked.

"I will tell her exactly what happened," he said. "That the army did this to us."

We drove south into Idlib Province, which has seen some of the worst fighting.

In a small village, we met Adbellatif al-Hamoud and his wife, Sabriya. They are parents of 15 children. Three of their sons have been killed fighting with the rebels.

"When the revolution started, I provided my sons," Hamoud said. "Three were killed. I still have six. And I pray to God for the others to be martyrs like their brothers."

"What your sons were fighting for, the end of [President Bashar al-Assad's] regime. Is it worth the price that you've paid in your sons' death?" I asked.

"Each of my sons was the whole world to me," his wife said. "I told them to leave the village. ... But they all went to fight."

Everyone, it seems, has a story of heartbreak. But rather than weaken them, the stories have only strengthened their resolve to rid Syria of Assad.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kenya's Refugees: A Perilous Journey for Food and Freedom


(DADAAB, Kenya) -- Wednesday morning, we boarded the U.N. plane in Nairobi, Kenya, and soon the view out the window was of a parched landscape. We were making our way to a land where hundreds of thousands have already arrived on foot, some walking more than 100 miles to food and freedom.

It is estimated up to 1,500 people make the perilous journey from Somalia to Kenya every day, the vast majority being mothers and children. When we landed, we found doctors, nurses, entire teams of aid workers literally feeding children back to life.

On the ground, the dust could not hide the dire need. But soon, we discovered something else: the resiliency of the children.

I asked Dr. Unni Karunakara, president of the aid organization Doctors Without Borders, how long it takes to see a difference in the kids.

"In one or two days," he said. "Within a day or two, sometimes you see somebody sit up."

Doctors Without Borders allowed us into its intensive care unit, where we met a mother and her 8-month-old daughter, whose eyes were barely open, only able to muster enough energy for a blank stare, a sure sign of malnutrition.

Another baby girl came in a week ago from Somalia with her sisters. A clinic worker told us they were all starving when they arrived, but she has seen them get better before her eyes.

Dr. Ruth Mayforth, a pediatric surgeon from Springfield, Ill., has never experienced anything like this. She shows us a baby wrapped in a special heating blanket. Even in the stifling heat of the desert, it is needed to keep the tiny body going.

Another key to survival is a simple supplement made of peanuts and milk powder. It is saving lives one mini-meal at a time.

The supplement is helping fragile bodies sit up and gain weight, one desperately needed pound at a time. Doctors Without Borders calls it a powerful tool in its arsenal.

Essentially, it is a meal in a package for children who are severely malnourished. In many cases, children are given two packages a day. It costs less than a dollar and is a tiny piece of hope in a region desperate for help.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio