Information and news about syria

7 Facts About Sanitation in Syria
In Syria, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities kill more than 85,000 children each year. In contrast, the war kills approximately 30,000 annually. Without clean water, young children, specifically 5-year-olds and younger, are left vulnerable to malnutrition and preventable diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and polio. Syrian families forced to flee due to the war are at a greater risk of contracting deadly illnesses. Here are 7 facts about sanitation in Syria.

7 Facts About Sanitation in Syria

  1. Damaged Infrastructure: The devastating use of explosives during the war in Syria has left basic infrastructure damaged beyond repair. In 2018, 50% were non-operational and more than 35,000 buildings were turned to rubble. As a result, the lack of access to clean water has become a growing problem.
  2. Water Mismanagement: Water researcher, Francesca de Châtel, believes Syria has mismanaged its water supply for 50 years. De Châtel says Syria has focused too much on large scale agriculture projects that have dried up rivers and wells. A lack of sufficient water has caused farmers to abandon their land and look for work elsewhere. This mismanagement also has nationwide impacts due to the amount of water waste.
  3. Risky Childbirth: Pregnant women are among one in every three families that are displaced from Syria. Often, they have little to no medical care because nearly 46% of health facilities are no longer functional and 167 are totally demolished. This has forced many pregnant women to give birth outside, under trees. They do not have a safe or sanitary place to deliver, which heightens the risk of delivering a unhealthy baby.
  4. Risk of Violence for Girls: While it may seem like an unusual correlation, lack of access to water in the home can put young girls and women at risk of violence. Since most households do not have clean sanitation facilities, girls and women venture out and travel miles to gather water. During their travels, they are vulnerable to violence, both physical or sexual. In fact, during the summer of 2015, the Syrian city of Aleppo faced a major water crisis and three children were killed while trying to collect water for their families.
  5. Contamination: Damaged infrastructure and the flooding of wastewater have contaminated water sources. In the northwest part of the nation, there is a high number of camps where displaced citizens have gathered. Here, these communities share latrines that do not meet the minimum humanitarian standards and are not segregated by gender, which can aggravate contamination. Paul Alcalde, who oversees water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming believes, “Lack of sanitation and lack of means for basic hygiene practices is not only about meeting immediate needs and basic rights, but it matters for dignity.”
  6. Cost: Prices and exchange rates have made water too expensive and out of reach for the poorest families. Some families spend up to 25% of their annual income alone on access to clean water derived from water tanks.
  7. Overcrowding: Many shelters throughout Syria and the surrounding countries, which hold the two million citizens that have become displaced, are not meeting the water or hygienic needs of the refugees. These living conditions are unsanitary due to a small number of showers and toilets as well as a lack of products like soap. Water is also rationed, and people are often allowed less than 10 quarts a day. Some shelters have been accommodated to hold around 25,000 refugees but will overcrowd and house twice the amount.

The Good News

Although Syrians, displaced or not, are still facing a sanitation and hygiene crisis, many organizations around the world have been doing their part to help.

UNICEF, the leader of the Water and Sanitation sector, has provided some relief to the people of Syria. Since 2011, UNICEF has provided 22,000 people with drinking and domestic water, 225,000 people have received soap and other hygiene products and 17,000 people have gained access to toilets and sanitation facilities. Nine years later, UNICEF concluded its first phase of WASH by completely restoring major water and sewage pipelines. In turn, 700,000 people have more and cleaner water instead of contaminated sources. 

Another organization that has provided major support is World Vision. Its efforts have included installing 10 water tanks in a refugee camp in Azraq, 5,200 WASH structures above and below ground such as toilets and sewage pits and constructing 35 tap stands that are connected to water tanks underground.

While Syria continues to grapple with war and violence, it must not forget to also address sanitation. With continued help from organizations like UNICEF and World Vision, hopefully sanitation in Syria will improve.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Food Security in the DesertThe desert is an ecosystem that does not have adequate moisture and nutrients to grow food. People living in these areas often rely heavily on food imports because of this lack of fertile soil. Approximately 5 percent of land in the Middle East and North Africa regions has sufficient amounts of water. That small amount of viable land has suffered mismanagement, resulting in shortages and limitations in agricultural regrowth after natural disasters and war. Fortunately, scientists and organizations around the world are developing ways to boost food security in the desert. Luckily, there are two programs in Syria and the United Arab Emirates that are attempting to feed people in arid regions.

Hydroponics in Syria

The prolonged war in Syria has destroyed the once-booming agricultural industry, diminishing food security in the desert. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated the loss of the agricultural exports sector to be around $16 billion. This number does not include the destruction of fertile land and crops that fed the people of Syria.

British scientists brought green technologies to Syrian refugee camps to promote food security in the desert. Through these programs, refugees learn how to grow crops where fertilized soil is not available. This process uses recycled materials like mattresses; another process uses an indoor planting technique called hydroponics. Hydroponics is a growing technique that uses nutrient-rich water mixtures instead of soil to grow fruits and vegetables.

These projects allow people in refugee camps to become self-sufficient in terms of agriculture. Individuals can use these skills for future gardening and farming once resettled. The project has taught almost 1,000 people sustainable agriculture practices such as growing tomatoes, eggplants and peppers in refugee camps. Using technologies to grow vegetables in places with infertile land will help individuals and countries develop sustainability.

Pure Harvest in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The United Arab Emirates has a climate of severe heat. The high temperatures and harsh conditions present serious issues for conventional farming methods. Due to this extreme climate, the country imports roughly 80 percent of the total amount of food consumed. The emergence of sustainable and innovative agriculture occurred from the need for alternative farming methods.

Pure Harvest began the pursuit of climate-controlled hydroponic greenhouses in 2016. This company aims to help the UAE become more self-sufficient in the government’s efforts to improve food security in the desert. In 2018, the company’s soccer field-sized facility in the Abu Dhabi desert produced its first tomato plants. Since then, it has produced approximately two tons of tomatoes per day.

The success of the first greenhouse has gained positive attention around the world. More desert communities are interested in building greenhouses to increase food security in the desert. Not only do these greenhouses allow crops to grow in arid parts of the world, but they are also producing enough of a surplus to create an agricultural market economy to the desert.

The war-torn areas and severe climates pose threats to food security in the desert, and technology is a crucial tool for mitigating these threats. Innovative methods such as hydroponics in refugee camps and building greenhouses on infertile land are just the start of a transformation that will provide more self-sufficiency and food security in the desert.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty in Syria
With a population of 18.4 million people, Syria ranked as a rapidly developing mid-sized country before the Syrian civil war broke out. Today, 11.7 million Syrian people have experienced displacement from their homes. Schools, health care facilities and small businesses have suffered greatly. As a result, the Syrian economy has collapsed, placing more than half of Syrian people in poverty. Children are at an especially high risk of poverty and displacement. The war has a stranglehold on the Syrian economy. It has caused significant damage to the country’s infrastructure and wreaked havoc on the lives of civilians. However, global aid has significantly improved Syrian peoples’ educational and employment opportunities, as well as access to food, water, shelter and health care. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Syria.

10 Facts About Poverty in Syria

  1. Before the Syrian civil war, the Syrian economy was flourishing. In 2010, right before the start of the Syrian civil war, the World Bank listed Syria as a rapidly-growing middle-income country. In addition, farming, oil, industry and tourism formed the major economic base. Meanwhile, primary and secondary education and health care received state funding. Until 2011, nearly 80 percent of the Syrian economy relied upon small to medium-sized businesses. In 2010, the GDP per capita in Syria was $2,807. Today, the GDP per capita is a mere $870.
  2. Today, the majority of Syrian people live in poverty. Over 80 percent of people in Syria live below the world poverty line, which means that they make less than $1 per day. The economic impact of ongoing conflict has resulted in an unemployment rate of 55 percent or more.
  3. Corruption is prevalent in Syria. Syria ranks fourth on the list of countries with the most corruption in the world. High paying jobs concentrate in Damascus, the country’s capital. It is hard to get a job in the capital without “wasta.” “Wasta” is an Arabic word that translates to “nepotism” or “clout.”
  4. The Syrian civil war interferes with education. The U.N. confirmed 74 strikes on schools and military use of 24 schools from January to June 2019. As a result, fighting has damaged many schools or bombs have demolished them. More than 33 percent of Syria’s children – over 2 million – do not go to school. Around 1.3 million children are at a high chance of withdrawing from school. UNICEF is working to provide education to Syrian children. The organization repairs damaged school buildings, provides at-home learning programs to students in districts where there are no schools and administers teacher-training programs.
  5. The Syrian civil war has impeded health care. Bombing damaged or destroyed many medical facilities. In northwest Syria, 51 medical facilities suffered attacks between January and June 2019. Fifty percent of all health care centers in Syria are only partly operational or are not operating at all. In light of this, many foundations are working in Syria to provide health care. For example, Doctors Without Borders is currently working in Syria, providing outpatient care, assisting with births and administering routine vaccinations.
  6. There is extreme wealth inequality in Syria. Before 2011, Syrian small businesses thrived. However, many shut down in the past decade. A few big business owners have established a monopoly over approximately 75 percent of the economy, though the average Syrian person lives in poverty
  7. Inflation has greatly affected the Syrian population. Syrian currency has depreciated greatly in recent years. The value of the Syrian pound has gone down over 90 percent since 2010. Prices have greatly increased, but salaries have stagnated and jobs are much harder to come by.
  8. Women and children suffer the damages of war. Children must often engage in child labor or marriage, or join the fighting to help their families survive. Additionally, over 60 percent of Syrian refugees are children. Syrian women are at high risk of enduring sexual violence.
  9. Many Syrians flee the country. There are 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, a neighboring country. In Lebanon, around 70 percent of Syrian people live below the poverty line. In Jordan, around 93 percent of Syrian refugees live below the poverty line. Living conditions for Syrian refugees are difficult, but perhaps preferable to the crisis of living in the midst of a civil war.
  10. Foreign aid is helping Syrian citizens. International relief organizations like the IRC, UNICEF and Worldvision provide significant aid to Syria. Currently, the IRC provides support to nearly 1 million people—half of them children. Support includes pop-up health clinics, cash vouchers to obtain food and necessities, child care, job training and psychosocial support for traumatized people. This is often for survivors of violence or sexual assault.

These 10 facts about poverty in Syria show that the current situation in Syria is bleak, as poverty and displacement affect nearly the entire population. However, foreign policy and intervention can help end the war. Additionally, foreign aid can support education, health care and small businesses. Ideally, Syria will stabilize in the years to come.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

Education in Syrian Tent Cities
2020 marks the 10th year of the ongoing conflict in Syria. A war that began with the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, the Syrian Civil War has accounted for over 400,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 12 million people. Amidst this conflict, NGOs are working to expand children’s access to education in Syrian tent cities.

The Crisis in Syria

Fighting between Bashar Al-Assad’s authoritarian regime and Syrian separatist groups increased the prevalence of terrorist organizations. Groups, including ISIS, are using this ongoing conflict to strengthen their power in the region. Caught in the crossfire are innocent civilians. Pushed out of their homes, they have been forced to find refuge elsewhere. Thousands of Syrian refugees are now located in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

According to World Vision, a nonprofit dedicated to lifting children out of poverty, over half of Syrian refugees are children. Bombings limit children’s access to education and healthcare, and the devastation is tearing families apart. Consequently, refugees are relying on resources within refugee camps, also known as “tent cities.”

Problems in Syrian Tent Cities

Syrian tent cities are loose constructions of temporary shelters made from the limited resources refugees can find, including boxes, bed sheets, blankets and plastics. With minimal safety precautions, resources and sanitation practices, tent cities are insecure and put refugees at risk.

Additionally, high levels of displacement exacerbate the financial plight of families, especially for children. UNICEF reports that 85 percent of children are living below the poverty line. According to the World Bank, Syrian children have low levels of enrollment and are especially at risk of succumbing to the numerous pressures involved with poverty. However, local NGOs are working to provide quality education in Syrian tent cities.

NGOs Support Education in Syrian Tent Cities

Many NGOs are continuing to expand throughout Syria and neighboring regions to provide educational assistance to children in tent cities.

  1. Nowell’s Mission: In 2014, Nowell Sukkar established Nowell’s Mission, a nonprofit that raises money to provide education to Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan. Sukkar and volunteers travel to Syrian refugee camps, providing basic education to children, including training in literacy.
  2. Children on the Edge: Another NGO, Children on the Edge, was established in 2000 by UNESCO to work with traumatized children and youth post-conflict in Timor-Leste. In 2004, when Children on the Edge became an independently registered charity, they expanded their support to include a wide range of children’s advocacy work across the world. These projects include building refugee education camps in Lebanon, the country with the largest Syrian refugee population per capita. These education camps have served over 300 children, providing education to children in their own dialect. Subjects include math, science, history, geography and English.
  3. Karam: Karam, the Arabic word for generous, is the name of one NGO, created in 2007. Their mission is to provide support to people across the globe, through education, employment and leadership training. One of their initiatives, operating out of Turkey, raises funds to rebuild schools and to provide Syrian children with opportunities in higher education.

While these are just a few NGOs helping support and rebuild education for Syrian refugee children, they represent the diverse ways children’s education can be improved. Whether it’s funding teachers, building schools or providing access to higher-education opportunities, initiatives to improve education in Syrian tent cities are helping children rebuild after tragedy.

 

With new global humanitarian problems emerging every day, it’s easy to forget the children impacted by sustained crises – like the one in Syria – who are now facing the long-term effects of insufferable war. By raising awareness, we can change the lives of Syrian children and provide them with the education they deserve.

– Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health for Syrian Refugees
Since the Syrian crisis in 2011, the displaced population has migrated to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Currently, 50 percent of the population are children without parents. Mental health issues have risen in the Syrian refugee community since then and the world has stepped up in treating the debilitating aspects of suffering traumatic events. This article highlights the improvements in the mental health of Syrian refugees.

Challenge and Impacts

Refugees that have to leave their homes and migrate elsewhere face many obstacles and challenges. Post-migration challenges often include cultural integration issues, loss of family and community support. Refugees also experience discrimination, loneliness, boredom and fear, and children can also experience disruption. Circumstances uproot them from friends and family and cut their education short. Refugees experience barriers in gaining meaningful employment and they face adverse political climates.

Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) are all effects of exposure to traumatic events. Traumatic events for Syrian refugees include war terrorist attacks, kidnapping, torture and rape. Meta-analysis all show a positive association between war trauma and the effects of certain mental health disorders. For example, a study examining the mental health of post-war survivors from Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo showed PTSD as the most common psychological complication.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a debilitating disorder that intrudes on the patient’s mind. It also intrudes on relationships and the patient’s ability to live a quality life. Thoughts of suicide and/or avoidance are also symptoms of PTSD.

A study of Syrian trauma and PTSD participants found that those between the age of 18 and 65 have experienced zero to nine traumatic events. Of those, 33.5 percent experienced PTSD and 43.9 percent depression. Another study in Lebanon showed that 35.4 percent of Syrian refugees will experience a lifetime prevalence of PTSD.

According to the United Nations High Commissions, 65.6 million people worldwide are “persons of concern.” That total includes 22.5 million termed “refugees” and several other millions termed “asylum seekers” or “internally displaced persons.” Survivors of torture account for 35 percent.

Health Care and Integrated Care

The National Institute of Mental Health identifies integrated care as primary care and mental health care; cohesive and practical. Primary care practitioners recommend conducting a thorough history check of any exposure to or experience of traumatic events. Health care professionals must be able to effectively address mental health issues. Barriers have long been the cause of mental health issues left untreated. Such barriers include communication, lack of health practitioners to patients in need, the physical distance patients must travel and the stigma of having the classification of “crazy.”

Treatments and Evidence-Based Interventions for Refugees

There have been several test instruments that provided significant results in the treatment of mental health as well as scalable interventions. Currently, the only FDA-approved drug both abroad and in the U.S. are paroxetine and sertraline; both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Other instruments include the Narrative Exposure Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Many found EMDR to be successful in reducing episodes of PTSD and depression in a study with Kilis refugees.

In 2008, the World Health Organization launched the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP). This endeavor focused on assisting low and middle-income countries in providing effective mental health treatments. Inventions such as Task-shifting, E-Mental Health and PM+ fall under the mhGAP umbrella. First, the task-shifting initiative aims at alleviating the pressure on a limited number of specialized practitioners. Task-shifting shifts duties and tasks to other medical practitioners which otherwise highly-trained specialists would perform. This initiative is cost-effective and proves to be a promising alternative. Refugees can receive treatment in primary and community care locations instead of specialized facilities. Meanwhile, E-Mental Health and PM+ aim to address multiple mental health symptoms at once, while allowing treatment to remain private and within reach to Syrian refugees. Finally, the EU STRENGTHS, also created under the mhGAP umbrella, strives to improve responsiveness in times of refugees affected by disaster and conflict.

Many Syrian refugees continue to face obstacles and barriers, however, there is hope. Initiatives such as those mentioned in this article provide a promising outlook for the continued mental health improvements of Syrian refugees.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

5 Mental Health Effects of the Yazidi Genocide
In the past few years, the Yazidi populations of northern Iraq and northern Syria have faced forced migration, war, the enslavement of women and girls and genocide. These traumatic events have resulted in several, severe psychological problems among Yazidis. A lack of adequate treatment and a prolonged sense of threat compounds the five mental health effects of the Yazidi genocide.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority, practice a non-Abrahamic, monotheistic religion called Yazidism. When the so-called Islamic State declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, it specifically targeted the Yazidis as non-Arab, non-Sunni Muslims. ISIS has committed atrocities against the Yazidis to the level of genocide, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC); these crimes included the enslavement of women and girls, torture and mass killings. This violence caused many Yazidis to suffer from severe mental health disorders.

5 Mental Health Effects of the Yazidi Genocide

  1. Disturbed Sleep: According to a study by Neuropsychiatrie, 71.1 percent of Yazidi refugee children and adolescents have reported difficulty sleeping due to the trauma they have experienced. These sleeping problems include trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and nightmares. Children are afraid that if they fall asleep they will not wake up again. Importantly, disturbed sleep will worsen other problems, such as anxiety.
  2. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD is one common mental illness that the Yazidi genocide caused. According to the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 42.9 percent of those studied met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Women and men experienced traumatic stress differently. Women with PTSD were more likely to show symptoms such as “flashbacks, hypervigilance, and intense psychological distress.” Men with PTSD more frequently expressed “feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.” Additionally, more women than men reported having PTSD. According to a study that BMC Medicine conducted, 80 percent of Yazidi women and girls who ISIS forced into sex slavery had PTSD.
  3. (Perceived) Social Rejection: Perpetrators of genocide have often employed systematic sexual violence against women to traumatize the persecuted population. In addition to the devastating injuries women experience, they also suffer from several psychological disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, depression and social rejection. Families and communities frequently reject survivors; Yazidi women who suffered enslavement perceive social rejection and exclusion from their communities at high rates. For instance, 40 percent of Yazidi women that BMC interviewed avoid social situations for fear of stigmatization, and 44.6 percent of women feel “extremely excluded” by their community. Social support is a crucial way to alleviate some of the pain from sexual violence and enslavement since rejection from their community magnifies the likelihood that girls will experience depression. Thus, social support, such as community activities organized by schools, can help by decreasing the factors that worsen psychological disorders like depression and by increasing the rate at which girls report instances of sexual violence.
  4. Depression: The Neuropsychiatrie researchers also found that one-third of the children they studied had a depressive disorder. In another study by Tekin et al., researchers found that 40 percent of Yazidi refugees in Turkey suffered from severe depression. Similarly, a 2018 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors without Borders) study in Sinuni found that every family surveyed had at least one member who suffered from a mental illness. The most common problem was depression. As a response to the growing mental health problems among Yazidis, MSF has been providing emergency and maternity services to people at the Sinuni General Hospital since December 2018. MSF has set up mobile mental health clinics for those displaced on Sinjar mountain and provides services such as group sessions for patients. In 2019, MSF health care officials conducted 9,770 emergency room consultations, declared 6,390 people in need of further treatment in the inpatient wards and have helped 475 pregnant women give birth safely. While MSF has increased its health care activities in the region, there are still people on the waiting list to receive treatment.
  5. Suicide: Since the ISIS takeover of the Sinjar region of Northern Iraq, the Yazidis’ historical homeland, the incidents of suicide and suicide attempts among Yazidis have increased substantially according to Médecins Sans Frontières. The methods of suicide or attempted suicide include drinking poison, hanging oneself and drug overdose. Many Yazidis, particularly women, have set themselves on fire. To alleviate this uptick in suicide and other negative mental health effects, MSF increased its presence in the area and offered psychiatric and psychological health care. Since the start of this initiative in late 2018, MSF has treated 286 people, 200 of whom still receive treatment today.

In the aftermath of ISIS’ genocide against the Yazidis of northern Iraq and northern Syria, many survivors have experienced mental health problems stemming from the trauma. These genocidal atrocities will have long-term psychological effects on the Yazidis, but such issues can be mitigated by psychological care. The five mental health effects of the Yazidi genocide outlined above prove the necessity of such health care for populations that have endured genocide and extreme violence.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

 

Public Health Crisis in Syria
Syria has been the target of one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching sanctions campaigns worldwide. The U.S., the EU, the U.N., the Arab League, OFAC and several other entities have all applied economic sanctions against the country. The goal is to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his brutal violence against unarmed, civilian anti-government protesters. U.S. sanctions are also in response to the Syrian government’s support for terrorist groups and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Imposing these restrictive measures has been the preferred method of Western powers for decades. However, sanctions have continuously failed to stop Assad from doing business with the U.S. and hurt the Syrian public.

Sanctions’ Impact on Syria’s Economy

Sanctions have caused serious damage to Syria’s economy. These sanctions include oil embargos, restrictions on certain investments, travel bans, freezing the assets of central banks and export restrictions on equipment and technology. The country used to be primarily an exporter, but it now relies on imports, mainly from Lebanon, Iraq and China. Before the EU sanctions, 90 percent of its oil exports went to Germany, Italy and France. Since President Trump recently imposed sanctions on its ally Iran, Syria is suffering even more difficulty obtaining goods. The value of the Syrian currency has plummeted, while prices have sky-rocketed, especially because of restrictions on oil imports.

To continue prioritizing the purchase of guns and bombs from Russia, the Syrian government has simply removed the country’s safety nets. Further, the country has cut back on subsidized fuel, food and health spending. Living was less expensive for Syrians during the peak of the civil war. Technically, legitimate businesses and individuals in Syria should be able to undertake critical transactions. However, foreign suppliers are often unwilling to send anything to Syria. These suppliers do not want to risk triggering unexpected violations of the complex sanction rules.

Sanctions and the Public Health Crisis in Syria

Similarly, there are exemptions for importing pharmaceuticals and food. But in reality, health facilities are feeling the effects of sanctions just as much as the rest of Syria’s private citizens, with life-threatening consequences. The consequences of these sanctions have led to a significant public health crisis in Syria. For example, hospitals cannot import nitrous oxide necessary for anesthetics, due to the fact that others could use it to make bombs. Also, they cannot import helium for cooling MRI scanners for the same reason. The humanitarian exemption for exporting software to Syria for medical equipment requires a complicated application process. Thus, health facilities have little access to foreign life-saving machines, drugs and supplies.

Unable to obtain repairs for European dialysis machines, about 10 percent of people dependent on dialysis have died of kidney failure. Russia, China, Lebanon or Malaysia must now provide medical supplies rather than the EU. This further slows down the process and delays the treatment of those with chronic illnesses. Cancer medication, insulin and anesthetics are among the medications Syria relies on imports for. Now, there are shortages of these medicines, as well as in specific antibiotics, serums, intravenous fluids and some vaccines. This has resulted in delayed treatment for cancer and leukemia patients. The government’s health care budget cuts since the civil war began, combined with the detrimental effects of sanctions, have made most imported medicines unaffordable. Finally, only 44 percent of hospitals are now fully functioning and many of them have closed.

The Real Impact of Sanctions

Meanwhile, President Assad’s policies of violence against his people have not changed. The Syrian government, which still carries out million-dollar deals with the U.S. and other countries that applied sanctions, seems to have found ways to circumvent the sanctions and remain largely unaffected. Assad claims that the sanctions are simply creating more refugees. As the inefficiency of sanctions to reduce human rights violations and their drastic effect on public health becomes increasingly clear, Western powers should rethink their policy of sanctions on Syria.

Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health Care in Syria
Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a war-torn country in Western Asia. These war efforts have caused a series of attacks against women’s health care in Syria and made female health care more difficult to come by. In Syria’s civil war, violent attacks continue to target health care workers and clinics, and particularly female health clinics.

Fear of Attack

Fear of attack also plays a role in keeping women from what health resources they do have. Many of the childbirth centers that remain are located in rural areas, making them difficult for many women to reach. Fear of attack in the vicinity of health clinics inhibits patients and health professionals alike. The regime’s campaign of gender-based sexual violence is a large contributor to this fear. The vulnerability that comes with the travel necessary to reach the available health clinics put women at further risk of attack.

These attacks and the consequent shutdown of many maternal health facilities are seriously threatening maternal health. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 320 health clinics suffered attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 826 health workers, 85 of whom were women. By the end of 2015, only 16 of the 43 childbirth centers previously available in Syria remained. The lack of access to these facilities and health professionals leave many women with no safe conditions to deliver their children. Moreover, they have no opportunity for checkups or preventative shots once they deliver their children.

Overall Health Care

The conflict also threatens basic preventative care for women. Things like mammograms and regular checkups are no longer available and few female health professionals remain in Syria, making health care even more difficult for practicing Muslims to find. Gynecological services and even menstruation pads are incredibly difficult to come by. Women who do survive the hardships of the war suffer from malnutrition and struggle with even the basic necessities for survival.

The Molham Volunteering Team

In the midst of the conflict, however, there are efforts to preserve and improve female health care. Groups like the Molham Volunteering Team are working to fill in the gaps in women’s health care in Syria. A group of Syrian students brought this group together to provide necessities, such as food and medicine, to Syrians in need. When crises emerge, the Molham Volunteering Team assembles emergency campaigns to help, such as its campaign to raise money to support victims of the attacks targeting Maarat Al-Numan. The campaign has nearly reached its goal of $250,000.

Another focus of the Molham Volunteering Team is to raise the funds necessary to cover hospital fees for women and other costs of childbirth. It has even begun a campaign to raise money in support of health workers and clinics against the attacks. To date, the campaign has raised about a quarter of its $10,000 goal.

The Violet Organization

The Violet Organization, a nonprofit organization in Turkey, has opened a health center in rural Idlib where women have access to maternal and reproductive health care. A group of young volunteers, with the goal of helping secure the basic needs of families through food and cash donations, founded The Violet Organization. Today, The Violet Organization focuses not only on immediate aid but also on long-term projects like the Idlib health center, which offers treatment for ovarian and breast cancer, as well as basic checkups and consultations.

The Mazaya Center

The Mazaya Center attempts to educate women about their health issues. The Mazaya Center, which volunteers started to empower women, is another nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues in northern Syria. It provides paramedic training and first aid classes. These two-month training sessions, which female nurses lead, aim to educate women about reproductive and maternal health as well as family issues.

In the face of the Syrian civil war, civilians are struggling to find the basic necessities for survival, and safe access to women’s health care in Syria has become yet another casualty. Despite the looming threat to women and health professionals, it is evident that there are people continuing their work to ensure that health care and education are available to the women who need it most.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

The Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011, making the Syrian refugee population the world’s largest group forcibly displaced from their country. At the end of 2018, there were 13 million refugees from Syria, accounting for more than half of the country’s total population. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (70 percent) and Jordan (90 percent) are living below the poverty line. Fortunately, a number of groups are stepping in to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Keep reading to learn more about these three nonprofits helping Syrian refugees.

3 Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

  1. Sunrise USA – Founded in 2011, Sunrise USA is a nonprofit organization focused on providing humanitarian assistance for Syrians in need whether they still live in the country or not. The group is focused on sustainable development in areas including education and health care.
    • Health Care With help from donations, Sunrise USA built a full-time clinic in the Tayba camp in Syria, as well as a clinic in Istanbul and a polyclinic in Rihanli, Turkey. The organization has also established 22 trauma care facilities in Syria.
    • Education As of 2018, around 5.8 million children and youth in Syria were in need of education assistance. About 2.1 million of them were out of school completely. Sunrise USA has built four schools and provided books and supplies to students and families around refugee camps. In 2015, Sunrise USA was a lead sponsor in the creation of the Al-Salam School which had 1,200 students.
    • Care for Orphans The number of Syrian orphans, both in Syria and neighboring countries, has increased to more than 1 million since 2011. Through Sunrise USA’s orphan sponsorship, hundreds of orphans have been provided with food, clothing, education and medicine.
  2. Doctors Without Borders (DWB) – Officially founded in 1971, the organization’s core belief is that “all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.” Here’s a look at DWB’s efforts to help Syrian refugees:
    • Jordan – In 2017, Jordan closed off the border connecting the country to Syria and in 2018 canceled all subsidized health care for Syrian refugees. Doctors Without Borders has three clinics in Irbid, Jordan that focus on non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death in the region. In 2018, the organization provided 69,000 outpatient consultations, 11,900 individual mental health consultations and 2,690 assisted births.
    • Lebanon – Shatila refugee camp in South Beirut is home to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese people living in poor and overcrowded conditions with minimal services. Doctors Without Borders has set up both a primary health care center and a women’s center inside the camp in 2013. The organization also launched a vaccination campaign around the camp, opened a mental health support branch in a clinic in Fneideq, offer family planning and mental health care services in the Burj-al-Barajneh refugee camp, and operate a care program in Ein-al-Hilweh refugee camp for patients with mobility issues.
  3. Concern Worldwide US – Founded in 1968, Concern Worldwide works in the world’s poorest countries to provide emergency response, education, water and sanitation, as well as help communities develop resilience to higher impacting climates. The organization works to help Syrian refugees in a few ways:
    • Lebanon – Concern Worldwide is not only focused on creating “collection centers,”–which are multi-family shelters–but also on improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the highly concentrated refugee areas of the country. The organization has provided assistance for 56,000 refugees and is also helping hundreds of children get access to education.
    • Syria – Since 2014, Concern Worldwide has worked in Syria to tackle waterborne diseases by installing generators and chlorinated water sources and also providing hygiene supplies. The organization also provides basic necessities to Syrians by distributing food baskets and for families with access to markets, food vouchers.

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in the Middle East
Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan are among the bottom 10 countries when talking about access to clean water. Water is a primary necessity for human life. Without food the body can survive for up to three weeks, however, without clean water, the body will perish within three to four days, but not before going into shock and fading in and out of delirium. The water crisis in the Middle East is a serious problem now that ongoing conflicts in the region have only worsened.

Afghanistan

Of the three countries listed above, the water crisis in the Middle East affects Afghanistan the least. Despite that, Afghanistan is in the middle of the worst drought it has seen in the past 10 years. In addition, it cannot effectively distribute resources since 40 years of armed conflict following Soviet intervention in Afghanistan has ruined the country’s infrastructure. As a result, about 260,000 Afghani civilians living in extremely dry areas have had to leave their homes, making them refugees.

The drought has drained natural water sources such as the Kabul River Basin, the primary source of water for the nation’s capital. The established system for distributing water is no longer applicable, so civilians must draw water from unofficial wells. In Afghanistan, a country with over 35 million people, 87 percent of accessible water is polluted. Fortunately, India is providing assistance with the Afghan-India Friendship Dam on the Hari River. With further plans to build another dam on the Kabul River, Afghanistan will have water for irrigation and will not have to live with the threat of flash floods.

Syria

In 2006, a massive drought began that would displace tens of thousands of Syrian farmers. By 2011, there were over a million angry, unemployed former farmers in the country ready to fight in a violent civil war that would go on for years. If one said that the water crisis in the Middle East was the proverbial lit match in the powder keg, it would be inaccurate. One cannot, however, deny that it did fan the flames.

Now that tensions are dying down, Syrian civilians have little infrastructure to help provide them with water. Militant groups that occupy water plants and reservoirs hold monopolies on the water for entire regions. Oftentimes, these groups distribute water selectively to blackmail their enemies. Prior to the civil war that started in 2011, water allocation was already inequitable. President Bashar al-Assad allocated more water to fellow members of his particular sect of Islam. Now that Syria is rebuilding its infrastructure, there exists an opportunity to distribute water equally across the country in order to help prevent humanitarian disasters like this in the future.

Egypt

Even in the time of the pharaohs, Egypt has owed its life to the Nile. The Nile is the primary source of water for a country with rice as its number one agricultural export. Rice requires a great deal of water for cultivation and harvest. One kilo of rice needs about 3,000 liters of water. The water in the Nile now contains dead fish due to heavy metals from industrial pollution. Using heavily polluted water diminishes crop yields leading to a further strain on resources.

Egypt faces more than just a drop in the quality of water. As a result of the Blue Nile dam that Ethiopia built, Egypt is also concerned about the quantity of water. By building a hydroelectric dam on the Nile upstream from Egypt, Ethiopia is developing a power grid to reach 86 million Ethiopians living without electricity. Consequently, this will divert about a quarter of the Nile’s water away from Egypt. The Nile supplies 85 percent of Egypt’s fresh water. Egypt has the most to lose in the event of armed conflict breaking out because of its water scarcity, so it is now pushing for diplomatic and scientific solutions to the problem. Negotiating with Ethiopia to share in the dam’s benefits and investments in desalination technology is helping to alleviate the water crisis.

The water crisis in the Middle East is serious and requires much work to alleviate the problem. Through the building of better infrastructure, however, Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan should be able to improve.

– Nicholas Smith
Photo: Flickr