MedGlobal provides hope and healing to the displaced people in Idlib, Syria
MedGlobal, along with a group of humanitarian organizations, stood in solidarity with 1.2 million displaced Syrian civilians in Idlib to highlight the catastrophic conditions. They called on the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to visit the 359,000 newly displaced people.
A local Pediatrician who was displaced with her family from Maarat Al-Noman, Dr. Loubna Saad, described the horrifying conditions of evacuating her city three weeks ago. She also described the dire conditions of people who live in temporary shelters where necessities are not available. Diesel fuel for heating is scarce and expensive – families are burning plastic bags and appliances to warm their children.
“Children are traumatized,” Dr. Loubna said, “ I have treated children with severe malnutrition and women who can’t nurse their children due to psychological trauma and lack of good nutrition. It will be very difficult for the displaced children to survive the harsh winter.”
Dr. Zaher Sahloul, co-founder and president of MedGlobal, participated in a press conference at one of the camps for internally displaced civilians in Idlib on January 7 to express solidarity with Syrian humanitarians and doctors.
“I traveled from Chicago to Idlib to stand in solidarity with you and convey the support of the American public. People are sending their prayers and donations to you,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul. “We call on President Donald Trump to increase the humanitarian assistance to the displaced Syrians and to apply all diplomatic pressure on Russia to stop the bombing in Idlib. The United Nations and its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been slow in their response to the catastrophic situation – they should make ending this crisis a priority.”
During the last three weeks over 359,000 civilians, including 165,000 children, have been displaced. Since May 2019, over 1.2 million Syrians civilians have been displaced and more than 70 hospitals were bombed.
According to Physicians for Human Rights, Idlib has 4 million civilians and half of them are displaced from other regions in Syria. Idlib has 1,150 refugee camps for the displaced, but Idlib is land-locked and there is no place to flee the bombing and violence.
Keeping Children warm in the harsh Idlib winter
MedGlobal, in partnership with the Violet Organization, supported and helped distribute blankets and tents to the newly displaced people from Maarat Al-Noman. More than $100,000 were donated to support the much-needed winterization program.
When a 10-year-old child, Ali, was asked about what he dreams of he said, “ I dream of a warm house once again.” Ali is living in a tent in one of the 1,150 camps in Idlib. He is one of 1.2 million internally displaced people who live in tents. He was displaced with his family from the city of Maarat Al-Noman three weeks ago.
Bab al-Hawa Hospital in Syria
Dr. Zaher Sahloul visited Bab al-Hawa hospital, the largest hospital in Idlib, and met with administration and medical staff. He made rounds in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Dialysis Center and expressed the support of MedGlobal medical volunteers and leadership.
Bab-Alhawa is the largest hospital in Idlib and is reasonably protected because of its proximity to the Turkish border. They have 85 doctors and about 200 medical staff. The hospital serves 240,000 patients every year. The surgeons perform 1,200 surgeries every month, including orthopedics, vascular, plastic, cancer, and neurosurgery. Many of the surgeries cannot be performed anywhere else inside Syria.
The ICU is well equipped with 6 monitored beds and advanced technology, although it needs to be updated. It serves a mix of surgical and medical patients. The Dialysis Center has 6 dialysis units and operates 3 shifts for 24 hours. Some of the dialysis units are outdated and need replacement.
After the visit, Dr. Sahloul said, “the care in the ICU in Bab-Alhawa is equal to the care in my hospital in Chicago, in spite of the limited resources and risk on the lives of medical staff.” Doctors and nurses are targeted in Syria if they work in non-government controlled areas.
More than 580 hospitals have been bombed and 910 medical workers have been killed according to Physicians for Human Rights. “These heroes are harassed, targeted, and forgotten. These are amazing humanitarians who deserve our support, respect, and solidarity. We should all support these heroes,” Dr. Sahloul said.
MedGlobal provided $250,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment to Bab-Alhawa.
Outpouring support from the American public
Two pharmacists from Chicago donated free medications and medical supplies for this emergency medical mission. Dema Alzein and Jalal Matarieh often donate free medications to MedGlobal medical missions to Yemen, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Lebanon, Bangladesh, and Syria. They run a small pharmacy in Chicago Ridge.
This time their medications ended up helping newly displaced children in one of the temporary shelters in Idlib city. Whether you are a physician, a nurse, pharmacist or any other medical professional, you can choose to volunteer, donate, and heal through MedGlobal.
Janet Lipner attended a presentation about refugees in Chicago at the Illinois Holocaust Museum. Since then she handmade and sent crochet toys to Rohingya children. MedGlobal runs a clinic at one of the largest refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh that served so far 100,000 Rohingya refugee patients, 25% of which are children.
Our volunteers delivered the first two batches of fluffy toys to the Rohingya children which made them smile amid their tents. This time, the toys were made for Syrian children. They were hand-delivered and offered some warmth during a harsh winter. Thank you, Janet.
Everyone can do something to plant a smile on the faces of refugees, so make your intention to do so.
Support MedGlobal’s efforts in Syrian to provide hope and healing – donate today!
Press Conference in Istanbul, Turkey
Co-founder and president of MedGlobal, Dr. Zaher Sahloul, joined a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey on January 10, 2020, with several humanitarian organizations. They stood in solidarity to shed light on the heartbreaking humanitarian situation in Idlib, Syria which left more than 359,000 civilians displaced. The following is the full statement on the humanitarian situation in Idlib, Syria from Dr. Sahloul:
“I traveled from Chicago to Idlib to be with the children of Idlib and convey the humanitarian picture to the American people. The American people care about what is going on and they want their government to end this crisis. Mosques, Churches, and Synagogues are sending their prayers and donations to the people of Idlib. Faith leaders have issued statements in solidarity and send their prayers to the victims. The church of Latter-day Saints donated $150,000 to help in the evacuation and shelter. Many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim-Americans also donated. The Syrian diaspora has been generous throughout the crisis. I have many American doctors who would love to volunteer with MedGlobal in Idlib in spite of the bombings. They want to help give treatment to Syrian patients and to stand in solidarity with their Syrian colleagues.
The children of Idlib are suffering. They are being targeted by Russian and Syrian regime bombs and missiles. They are cold and without shelter – most are unable to go to school. They have no food or medicine, their mothers are suffering, and their futures are bleak. Save the Children released a report which states that 175,000 children were displaced since December 2019. On average, every day there is a Syrian child who is killed by the Russian/Syrian bombing. In one month, more children were killed than that of all of 2018. We want to ring the alarm bells for what is happening.
What is happening is not fair. I have seen a family of mother and 6 small children who ended up in a room that hosts 3 families in a deserted building that is converted to a temporary shelter. I asked her what she needs. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and she said “everything.” She was displaced with her family in the middle of the night from the city of Maarat Al-Noman 3 weeks ago.
I saw a disabled man sleeping on a thin mattress when he needed a special bed for his condition to prevent bed ulcers. We spent part of a night in one of the 1,150 camps. It was a very cold and rainy night. Mud was everywhere and we had to wear long boots to be able to walk. Some children had no shoes. I asked one of the children, 12-year-old Asma Shbeeb, what she needs. She said, “I wish that there is some way to pave the camp with gravel instead of the mud so we can walk to our school which is 3 kilometers away.” Asma is a straight-A student in spite of her ordeal. She was displaced seven times with her family from the village of Jobbin before ending up in that camp tent.
I have been in many disaster zones with my organization, MedGlobal. I participated in medical missions to Yemen, Colombia, Gaza, Greece, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh. What is happening in Syria, in Idlib is, by far, the worst. The UN and UNSC have to be ashamed for letting this happen for 9 years.
The international humanitarian law which guarantees the protection of civilians, hospitals, and children is being violated every day – unfortunately, by a member of the UNSC. This should not be allowed to be the new normal, even in war situations.
The humanitarian situation is overwhelming to local Syrian NGOs. The United Nations and its agencies have been absent in action. After 9 years of the crisis and frequent large-scale displacements, it does not look like the UN has a plan to deal with emergency situations such as this. They have left the local NGOs, more or less, to deal with the displacement of 359,000 civilians on their own. Why isn’t there an emergency fund that could have been deployed right away? None of the UN officials visited Idlib or met with the people who they are supposed to protect and provide humanitarian assistance to.
The media has been absent in action. I was watching the TV over the past few weeks and every day there is a coverage of the bush-fires in Australia that led to the displacement of 100,000 people in a continent with unlimited resources. There is a pouring of sympathy and donations from all over the world to the good-hearted Australian people.
One of the Arab countries pledged to donate millions of dollars to Australia to help in the firefighting but at the same time cut its assistance to the largest hospital in Idlib that serves 240,000 every year. We should sympathize with the Koalas but the Syrian children deserve more attention. They are also cute like the Koalas. There is very minimal coverage of the worst displacement of the 21st century, a displacement of a million people, and mounting, in a small area in northwest Syria.
I call on the UN, UNSC member organizations especially Russia to stop the bombing of children, doctors, and women in Idlib. These are not your enemies. I call on President Donald Trump to make Syria a priority and apply all diplomatic pressure to end the Syrian crisis once and for all based on UNSC resolution 2254 and increase humanitarian assistance to Syrian children through the local Syrian NGOs. Syrian children have suffered enough. His legacy, like that of President Obama, will be determined by what he will or will not do in Syria.
I call on the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make the catastrophe in Idlib a priority. Mr. Antonio Guterres should visit Idlib like he visited other disaster areas. Claiming “deep concerns” in his comfortable UN office in NYC is not enough, he should be in the field, it is his duty. And if he does not want to, then he should resign. What is happening in Syria, in Idlib, is a stain on the United Nations record and utter failure of their rigid and outdated system.-
The UNSC should review the Cross Border aid resolution that is set to expire today. Russia and China should lift their veto and renew the resolution for one more year. The Syrian children are not their enemies. Without this resolution, the lives of 4 million civilians will be affected. The horrible situation in Idlib will be made even worse.
In spite of that, I can tell you that the Syrian children, the Syrian people, the people of Idlib are very resilient. They are dealing with the catastrophe with very limited resources. They are using compressed olive pits to heat their stoves instead of diesel fuel. They are even using plastic bags and other containers to heat the stoves. Winter is cold in Idlib. As a doctor, I know the long term consequences of inhaling plastic vapors – it is our loss if we don’t help them.
I asked the children of the camp what they dream to be in the future. Some wanted to be engineers, some teachers and some wanted to even be a president. But Asma, Huda, and more than half of the children in the camp wanted to be doctors. I hope that the international community gives them the chance to be a source of healing to the whole region instead of being a source of hopelessness.”
Support MedGlobal’s efforts in Syria to provide hope and healing – donate today!
Medical Poem on Syrian Children
Open your mouth wide
My little angel
I brought my little light with me to see
What happened to the land
Of olive trees
I brought my light with me
For the world to see
What did the beast do to you
My light is so small
And the darkness is overwhelming
I hope it will shine
And pierce through their apathy
Some hearts may look at your beautiful face
And pay little attention
To what has been done to you
Even if they don’t
Don’t worry about them
My little angel
God is staying
Very close to you
They are the ones who lost
By turning away
God is here in the room with you
My little angel