TODAY   |  March 11, 2014

Inside a hospital for Syrian refugees

NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman joins TODAY from a Lebanese hospital along the Syrian border to report on the youngest victims of the war in a special series called, “Forgotten? Syria’s Children of War.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to the nbc news special live documentary "forgotten." syria 's children of war. for 48 hours , we're showing faces of the crisis by following lives of syrian children in real-time across all the platforms of nbc news.

>> more than 5 million kids have been directly impacted by this conflict, and this morning the u.n. is calling the situation the biggest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century . we're going to check in with nbc 's bill neely in damascus in a moment. first, our chief medical editor, dr. nancy snyderman , is along the syrian border at a hospital in lebanon. nancy, as we go to you, we want to tell our viewers what you are witnessing and what they are about to see is incredibly distressing, but we believe it's a story that everyone needs to see.

>> reporter: it's an amazing scene. this hospital is overrun, just teeming can syrian refugees with emergency care and basic health care needs. this morning unicef has released a report really underscoring how this has turned into a humanitarian and medical crisis. nbc news has made the commitment to really focus on the invisible faces of this crisis. syria 's children. so last night we spent the night in this hospital to see what we could see and to see the burden of this humanitarian crisis . and these are some of the things that we witnessed. the action here began just a few minutes after midnight. so you can see how floppy the left side. an unvaccinated 19-month-old syrian baby arrives paralyzed on his left side. doctors suspect polio. polio.

>> yes.

>> have you seen this before?

>> no.

>> if tests come back positive, this will be lebanon's first case of polio among the syrian refugees. a great concern, because this disease can spread quickly, especially in crowded refugee camps . can you ask mother when she noticed the baby was being paralyzed?

>> ten days ago.

>> this 37-bed hospital has seen its patient load quadruple, mostly due to an influx of expectant mothers, like this woman, seven months pregnant with twins. like many refugees, she has received little to no prenatal care . and doctors here quickly determine the situation is dire. what was supposed to be a routine c-section suddenly turns into a hurried vaginal birth, without pain medication. but the baby is not breathing. doctors quickly get to work trying to save her, while her twin waits to be born. an anxious family waits outside. nurses say this was actually a quiet night. but as the new day begins, another steady stream of people turn to this little hospital for help. this is little hebba, one of the lucky ones who went home as a term baby, but has already been hospitalized once with a respiratory infection. that's very common for the children here, because of the individual homes and refugee villages. so you're looking at the face of syria right here with hebba.

>> heart breaking reality. thank you for your report.