Since 2011, deadly conflict in Syria has decimated the economy and infrastructure, creating a humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that up to 5 million Syrians have fled the country and another 6 million have been internally displaced by the fighting. Many of Syria’s doctors and other health workers have left the country; health facilities in Northwest Syria continue to be targets of bombing and violence. Hundreds of health workers have died in attacks. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities (UNOCHA) reports that shelling and displacement continue in northwest Syria. More than 93% of the 4.4 million people in NW Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the World Health Organization, most public hospitals and health clinics in Syria are closed or only partially functioning, and there is little access to health care across many parts of the country. Access to basic services, including health care in the refugee camps and host communities in neighboring countries faces significant resource challenges and relies on host governments and aid organizations efforts. Updated May 2022.
Americares is helping Syrians access health care in Syria and increasing access to health services in surrounding countries, where Syrians have fled.
The total value of our aid for the Syria crisis since 2012 is more than $27 million, which has supported health care services in Syria, as well as medical care and health programming for Syrian families seeking refuge in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. It has benefited more than 1.5 million patients.
Medicine and medical supplies for health facilities in Syria.
Americares sends regular shipments-some as large as 29 tons-to partners who have health programs inside Syria. Critical medicine and supplies include antibiotics, intravenous fluids, safe birthing kits and chronic disease medications. The medical aid has been distributed to medical facilities in rural western Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Idlib through partners Human Appeal, Shafak and the Syrian American Medical Society. In January-April 2020, shipments were distributed across 21 health facilities in northwest Syria, and an Americares-funded mobile medical unit operates in IDP camps in Idlib.
In February and March 2022, Americares shipped two sea containers to northwest Syria valued at more than $1.47 million. Partner organizations Shafak and Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA) will be utilizing the shipments containing donated PPE, medicine, and medical supplies to support their network of medical facilities. Americares has supported more than 50 health facilities and hospitals in northwest Syria through such gift-in-kind (GIK) shipments.
In partnership with long-time partner Anera, and with funding from the US State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), Americares is actively procuring medications from international vendors to ensure access to chronic disease medications for vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon.
Medical Outreach: Americares has supported 93 trips by U.S.-based medical teams traveling to the region to provide primary care services, surgeries and training for local health workers. The total value of aid delivered by Americares Medical Outreach Program is $6,089,661.
Mobile health in Syria.
Americares will continue to provide the support needed to operate a mobile medical unit in rural Western Aleppo, Syria. In one three-month period, with Americares help, our partner Human Appeal provided care to more than 6,000 Syrian men, women and children through the mobile clinic-for many Syrians, the only care available to them.
Americares has provided additional support to our partner Shafak to continue operating a mobile medical unit in rural northwest Syria. The support is critical in an area where only an estimated 60% of health facilities are operational, and where there has been an influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Shafak has faced an increase in patient numbers due to the winter weather conditions in IDP camps, including flooding and lack of heating access. Shafak’s mobile medical unit has served thousands of unique patients since June 2020.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Lebanon
In March 2022, Americares awarded Caritas Switzerland funding for a cash-for-health program supporting Syrian refugees and Lebanese host community members. Participating individuals receive financial support to pay for both inpatient hospital care and their outpatient recovery period. In this third iteration of the cash for health program, MHPSS is a key focus. An evaluation of earlier versions of this program revealed that participants may have additional MHPSS needs despite improvements of basic physical health outcomes. Caritas will conduct mental health screening for all participants and provide counseling and awareness sessions as needed.
Mental health support for health workers.
Providing health care amidst bombing and violence can cause stress and trauma among the health workers, putting them at risk for illness. Providers caring for Syrians who have experienced violence or depredation are also at higher risk of vicarious trauma. Americares trains medical staff caring for Syrians in Syria or in bordering countries to recognize and alleviate signs of stress in themselves and their co-workers.
Expanding and integrating care for chronic disease patients.
Stress and trauma can worsen or even trigger chronic disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Americares collaborated with Jordan’s Royal Health Awareness Society to add stress relief to an existing chronic disease program in a community near the Syrian border. Results show that patients’ physical health improved when they included stress reduction such as walking, mindfulness and socializing in their daily routine.
Since 2016, Americares has supported Royal Health Awareness Society’s (RHAS) flagship Healthy Community Clinic program, a non-communicable disease prevention and treatment curriculum offered in Ministry of Health (MoH) clinics. Americares helped RHAS integrate an MHPSS component and conducted a three-arm evaluation which resulted in several publications of program results. RHAS and Americares piloted a subsequent program to reach refugee and host community members with messaging through community health volunteers (CHVs). Following the successful CHV pilot, Americares is now developing curriculum to train community health volunteers how to deliver important MHPSS messages during home visits. In March 2022, Americares awarded a grant to support RHAS’s contribution to the curriculum development, including the design and printing of the training manual.
Part of hospital costs for vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon are covered by the United Nations Refugee Agency, but Syrians still face a bill for up to 25 percent of the cost. Collaborating with Caritas Switzerland, Americares is providing funds to cover the gap. In 2020, Americares expanded the program to support families unable to work or afford food during COVID-19 lockdowns.
In addition, Americares has provided training in psychological first aid and psychological support for the case managers working directly with the families—many of whom have suffered trauma. The horrific Beirut explosion in August 2020 added anther level of stress on Lebanon’s overwhelmed health system.
“In some villages there are no roads, a lack of transportation and a very bad economic situation. And many have no ability to provide medicine for their children, and sometimes, even for themselves.”
Dr. Ayman Kasem, Shafak Mobile Clinic physician, Syria.
In the Past Decade and more…
Our staff has visited camps and communities in Jordan, Turkey and other neighboring countries as well as countries in Europe on the migration route. They have met and worked with local authorities, international nongovernmental organizations and other current and potential partners to identify gaps in health services for Syrian refugees in camps and host communities in Jordan and Turkey, as well as people inside Syria. We will continue our efforts to support health care for Syrian families caught in this brutal war as long as our help is needed, during the Pandemic and beyond.
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