It was a suffocating weekend in Idlib, Syria. Babies a few hours old gasped for breath after their incubators lost power in a hospital attack. Children had difficulty breathing after a reported chlorine gas attack. Elsewhere in Syria, children in Ghouta were fighting for their lives while they wait for medical evacuation enduring another fierce and terrifying bombardment.
Several medical facilities were attacked and put out of service since Sunday. The Maarat Al Nouman hospital was attacked four times, causing newborn babies to temporarily suffocate as their incubators lost power. Luckily, the babies' lives were saved as they were evacuated to nearby hospitals. Another healthcare center, Tal Mardeekh Healthcare Center, was also attacked Sunday night and put out of service. The attacks left thousands with no access to medical care, as Idlib experienced fierce bombardment, including a reported chlorine gas attack.
There was a reported chemical attack in Saraqeb, Idlib at 10 p.m. Damascus time, Sunday. 17 people were injured including three members of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets). Victims at the medical facility reported symptoms consistent with the choking agent chlorine gas, including suffocation and the smell of chlorine on their clothes. No fatalities were reported.
On Monday morning, another hospital was attacked in Kafr Nabol, the Kafr Nabol Surgical Hospital, also putting it out of service. The string of violent attacks on medical facilities is a war crime, leaving thousands vulnerable to injuries with little or no access to medical care.
On February 1, 12:15 p.m. Damascus time, the Al Maghara (Dr. Hassan Al Araj) Cave Hospital in Kafr Zita, Hama was hit by five missiles from an airstrike. The hospital, built under 60 feet of rock, suffered extensive damage throughout the building; the pharmacy was destroyed and there was extensive damage in the emergency department, which UOSSM supports, and ambulances. There were minor injuries and no casualties reported. This was the fourth attack on the hospital in 2018.
The hospital is considered the "safest" hospital in the region because it is built under 60 feet of rock, protecting it from most attacks. But experts say the attack was with advanced weaponry as the missile was able to cause that much damage to the hospital.
The hospital serves a population of 50,000.Read more
At least 11 medical facilities were attacked during the holiday season leaving thousands without access to medical care. Medical facilities were targeted in Hama, Idlib, and Eastern Ghouta. Three paramedics and one nurse were killed, and 10's were wounded in the attacks. The only pediatric doctor in Al Salam Maternity Hospital was wounded in an attack as well.
The medical evacuation of 29 critically ill patients was completed last night. Unfortunately, many of the children that still desperately need to be evacuated were on the list, including Rama, Karim and Qasem.
The medical evacuations lasted over a three day period. There were a total of 18 children, six women and five men that were evacuated. There are still over 650 medical cases in Ghouta, many of which are children and women, that desperately need to be evacuated to treat their chronic illnesses and wounds.
The are of Ghouta remains under siege with over 370,000 civilians, that have very little access to food, medicines and medical care.
UOSSM has been working tirelessly, advocating with all parties for the medical evacuations.Read more
The situation in eastern Ghouta has been declining rapidly, as airstrikes intensify, and the supplies needed to treat the ill and wounded are running low due to the siege.
Hundreds have been wounded in the past few weeks and many have been killed by intensifying airstrikes. There are also reports of victims experiencing symptoms of exposure to chemical agents.
Many children are experiencing, or or on the brink of malnutrition, as two more babies died in the past week due to malnutrition and lack of medications.
Doctors warn if something is not done soon to let humanitarian aid inside Ghouta, there could be a human catastrophe, as there are over 300,000 people still trying to survive in Ghouta.
The Syrian American Foundation in collaboration with UOSSM USA, ICGC, and Xavier University Foreign Policy Leadership Council, held a presentation on Saturday October 21, by Dr. Hossam Alnahhas, "Chemical Weapon Use in the Syrian Conflict; An Eyewitness Account".
Dr. Alnahhas is the coordinator for CBRN-TF (Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Task Force) for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), and was invited by Harvard University FXB Center for Human Rights to work on a project, "The Burden of War".
Dr. Alnahhas developed a unique set of skills which helped to document the events in Syria in the past few years. Dr. Alnahaas shared his story about how his life changed during the conflict in Syria, and how his success led him to the invitation by Harvard University that will train him to collect medical data during wars.
"To Kill a Healthcare Worker is to Kill Humanity"
Dr. Monzer Yazji, President of UOSSM USA, along with board doctors from all member organizations of UOSSM created a petition to call for an immediate stop to the attacks on doctors, medical staff and medical facilities. Over 150,000 people have signed the petition so far. This is all part of the "Doctors in Danger" Campaign launched by UOSSM.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria in 2011, at least 732 doctors and medical staff were killed. According to the UOSSM Syrian Hospitals Report, all 107 hospitals in Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Daraa, Quneitra and Homs were attacked at least once by a direct or indirect air strike in 2016. Some were targeted up to 25 times with an average of three attacks per hospital.
Since September there was a surge in violence as 18 medical facilities were attacked, most of which were at least partially put out of service, leaving thousands of vulnerable civilians with no access to medical care.
Please click here to sign the petition, and please share with friends and family.
For months the situation was improving in Syria, as news of attacks and bloodshed was dramatically reduced. But for the past week the brutal violence has returned as hospitals, civil centers and civilian buildings were attacked, causing the death of at least two paramedics, with many others wounded. White Helmets workers were also injured as they were attempting to rescue wounded civilians. Please click here if you would like to read a detailed press release about the hospital attacks last week.
The breakout session, on June 22 at Interaction Forum 2017, “Re-envisioning Partnership in Humanitarian Response: Insights from Syria”, organized by UOSSM USA was a lively discussion. The forum was moderated by Julien Schopp of Interaction, our panelists Mais Balkhi of Syrian Relief and Development, Hakan Bilgin of Dunya Doktorlari Dernegi (Doctors of the World), Dr. Lina Murad of Syrian American Medical Society, and Dr. Mahmoud Hariri of UOSSM International, shared their experiences and insights on the challenges of partnership between national and international NGOs and possible ways forward.
A variety of operational challenges have had a hand in shaping the response to the crisis. While Syrian NGOs are on the front lines, they face challenges such as transferring funds into Syria, finding and retaining qualified staff, not having a “seat at the table”, and obtaining donor funding. International organizations have the organizational infrastructure and experience to handle the banking, obtaining donor funding, and applying lessons learned from other humanitarian responses, but are not able to enter Syria and have faced challenges with registration and operations in neighboring countries.
The panelists hit on a fundamental truth for partnership- trust is essential. They spoke openly about the many factors that affect trust building for better or worse. For instance, they recognized that political objectives, either of donors or NGOs, might keep them skeptical of each other. Another factor is the tension between national organizations knowing the needs on the ground, while international organizations have learned lessons from other experiences that should be taken into consideration. A third factor is the recognition that there are risks of fraud, waste and abuse and that both national NGOs and international NGOs need to work together to reduce to ensure donors’ continued trust.
Looking forward, the panelists suggested several concrete recommendations. First, conduct thorough needs assessment in consultation with local authorities. Second, invite Syrian organizations to the table for strategic decision-making and planning. Third, coordinate carefully among all implementers and with local authorities to maximize scarce resources. Fourth, provide long term capacity building and mentoring to partners rather than workshops and conferences. Lastly, both national and international organizations alike should be open to criticism and learning that can improve how they deliver their much-needed services in a humanitarian response. These recommendations will inevitably lead to greater trust and deeper partnership.Read more