In ten simple points, we explain how the Syria conflict has damaged the country’s health system, why millions of people no longer have access to treatment and care and how you can help change this through AVSI’s campaign Operations Open Hospitals.
1. What is happening in Syria:
Since 2011, Syria has been shaken by conflict that has resulted in what UNHCR has described as “the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time.” In 2016, the UN agency estimated that 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, were in need of humanitarian assistance. Almost 9 million people live every day hungry or with food insecurity (fear of going hungry) as a daily part of life because they don’t have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food.
2. The collapse of the health system
After nearly six years of war, the Syrian health system is collapsing. According to UN OCHA current figures, an astounding 11.5 million Syrians, including nearly 5 million children, do not have access to health care. In Damascus, at least 1.5 million of people don’t have access to hospitals, and in Aleppo the number reaches 2.2 million.
3. Lack of health care personnel
The critical condition is growing mainly because of the chronic shortage of human and material resources. It is estimated that 55% of the public hospitals and 49% of the health community centers are closed or only partially functional. The health infrastructures still in place are in critical condition since it is difficult to access electricity, fuel and drinking water. In addition, more than 658 people who used to work in these structures have been killed since the beginning of the crisis.
Of the Syrian medical personnel, only about 45% are left and active in the country. This is due to the massive migration, which includes many Syrians, and leaves a great gap of available personnel and specialists able to respond to the growing demand of care.
The lack of midwives, among others, is an example that illustrates the collapse of the country’s health system. Today in Syria, there are about 300,000 pregnant women that are not able to receive appropriate pre-natal treatment.4. Lack of medicines/drugs
Many pharmaceutical companies and drugs storage centers have been destroyed. The infrastructures that were not affected have also stopped working with regularity due to the serious shortage of skilled human resources and raw materials.
The lack of drugs and medical equipment affects all the population, but in particular puts at risk the health, and in some cases the life, of people suffering from chronic diseases, and who need continuous care and treatment.
From the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 to 2013, life expectancy in Syria fell by six years. In 2010, men and women were expected to live to 75 and 80 respectively, but the estimate changed in 2013 to only until 69 and 75 by 2013. Infant deaths in the country rose by 9.1% over the same period.
5. Embargoes and sanctions on Syria
Embargoes and sanctions on Syria only aggravate more the situation. Officially, the restrictions shouldn’t affect humanitarian aid but, in reality, sanctions have prevented the entry of essential medical supplies and of spare parts to fix medical equipment into the country. Given the possible double use (health and military), these supplies and equipment are not allowed to enter the country.
6. The economic difficulties of health
The lack of contributions, both public and private, makes it almost impossible for hospitals to respond adequately to the needs of the entire population. The poorest are the most affected because they are not able to bear the costs of proper medical treatment.
7. Epidemic risk
The basic health services in serious conditions and the difficulties to access clean water, energy and sanitation services might lead Syria into an outbreak of diseases linked to water.
8. Working to face the crisis
This year, responding to an appeal made by the current Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari, AVSI Foundation has decided to support economically the work of 3 private non-profit hospitals in Syria. Two are located in Damascus and the other one in Aleppo.
9. The three hospitals supported in Syria
AVSI will raise funds for The Italian Hospital and St. Louis Hospital, in Damascus, and for the St. Louis Hospital in Aleppo. These three health centers were chosen because they have the ability to offer high-level services in all medical specializations.
Currently, these three hospitals are operating at half their capacity, in spite of the growing need of the population in both cities. AVSI’s project aims to increase the availability of bed space by 90%, increase the access to free health care services for patients who cannot afford them, establish a Social Services office to assess and guarantee access to treatment and care to those most in need, and update the information and technology systems of the hospitals by acquiring necessary equipment and training staff accordingly.
10. What can I do to help?
With your donation, we can support those who are in Syria working closely with the population in order to meet the most immediate needs of the innocent victims of this senseless war. AVSI launched a campaign to help three non-profit and private hospitals in Aleppo and Damascus in order to guarantee access to health to the poorest, the children, the single mothers and the wounded.
If you donate $50 today, we will be able to take care of one patient for one day. But mainly we will be able to give this person hope and the priceless notion that he/she is not facing this war alone.
Help us. Donate now to Syria.
Interview originally published on Il Corriere della Sera
By Marta Serafini
In the last few weeks, humanitarian agencies have warned of the danger of a new disaster in Mosul. What do you expect?
We know that Isis is using civilians as human shields in the city. But there is also the risk that displaced people might remain trapped in the strip of land between the two military camps. This is why, since the beginning, AVSI has made an appeal to all Christian organizations to develop an operational plan that covers the first phase of an emergency.
There are over 200,000 refugees fleeing and more than 55,000 have already arrived, but there is only space for 60,000 in the camps…
Yes. And we should also keep in mind that in the last two years at least 400,000 people fled from Mosul and from neighboring areas. The newly displaced people are going to complicate an already tragic scenario. It may sound cynical to say but for Iraq the humanitarian emergency is now a routine.
Where the first displaced people coming from Mosul will be received?
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has prepared an emergency plan with 27 new refugee camps, which will be coordinated by their office in Erbil. The first areas to be affected will be the Southern and the South East of Mosul. But this is _ as the United Nations officials have explained _ a partial plan.
Unicef has also launched an alert regarding the children. They are particularly concern about the mines that Isis will leave behind, as they did in Falluja. Do you think this will make it difficult for the refugees to return?
Absolutely. When we first heard about the new conflict, many of the children that come to our nurseries, which we manage with the Dominican Sisters, wanted to know if they will be able to go back home. But it’s obvious that the return will be more complicated because of Isis’s mines and possible retaliation. In addition, there will be more tension between different ethnic and religious groups. This is why we think that the time has come to stop teaching children only English, as it’s currently happening in the camps. Perhaps we should consider the idea that Kurds should learn Arabic and vice versa. We can only avoid hatred, if we know each other.
By Fiammetta Cappellini
Despite all our efforts and the endless days of work two weeks after Hurricane Matthew violently struck Haiti and left 750,000 people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, we are still facing an emergency situation. We struggle, powerless, facing this enormous disaster. There are no houses, schools or bridges. Nothing works. We have no power, no Internet, no water or infrastructures. And, more importantly, there is no food.
The rain stopped, but the soaked ground no longer absorbs anything. Filthy water that becomes black mud mixed with broken branches covers the ground. Huge trees clutter the streets of the major cities or lie in the fields, as if they had been ripped from the soil by the hand of a giant.
The exceptional sea storm that accompanied the hurricane swept the coast for hours and days. Haiti’s white beaches have disappeared, and the restaurants along the sea were swallowed up by the waves. A pierced boat is still enthroned in the middle of a street in the center of Les Cayes, more than 500 meters from the pier.
Surrounded by a landscape similar to the one seen in the movie The Day After, we struggle. Disoriented and incredulous, we can’t get used to this devastation. AVSI’s staff is waiting for the World Food Programme (WFP) truck that is bringing 300 tons of food, which will then be distributed to nearly 20,000 families, the most vulnerable families of Les Cayes. While part of AVSI’s staff was waiting to unload the bags and prepare the rations, the rest of us was visiting the communities to prepare the distribution.
There is not enough food for everyone, so we must decide who needs it most and we have to come to an agreement. After exhausting discussions with mayors and religious leaders, and after distributing thousands of passes, we are finally ready: 19,900 families will receive a monthly ration of rice, beans and oil. We now have a month to think about the next steps.
Along the road, we see houses wrecked by fallen trees; the river remains high carrying mud and debris. There are almost no roofs in place. Two weeks after the hurricane, we are still surrounded by water everywhere. Yet, the sun shines high in the sky and the temperature reaches almost 95 degrees.
We stop at the University of Agriculture that has been our partner for the last 18 years. The director is waiting for us, smiling despite the situation. He shows us the damage and once more, we feel powerless in the face of destruction. The university’s premises were not affected, but the new laboratory, not yet open to the students, suffered serious damages.
The experimental farm, where young agronomists practice their skills, is devastated: there are no trees standing, the cultures were swept away and the space where students were breeding chickens and rabbits was completely destroyed. I cannot even say where the greenhouse was: it has been completely erased.
The University doesn’t event seem to be the place I knew. When we reached the library, we found more devastation. The hurricane has torn and thrown away the windows, and has flooded the premises with water. Most books are lost. On the balcony, a handful of students are at work: they lay the books in the sun, and then turn the pages so they don’t stick together. The students put the books back in the sun to dry with a rock on top so they don’t fly away.
They are tired, and they still don’t know when the courses will resume. Yet, the books are precious and they cannot be lost. So, while the students wait for the University to reopen, they spread the books out in the sun to dry.
This is Haiti. You can shake its foundations with one of the worst earthquakes in History. You can inundate its lands and sweep away its houses with a very violent hurricane, but the country will always find a way to get back on its feet. Haiti will only find a place from which to start again, from where to start rebuilding. I don’t know where Haitians find this strength, this determination. But they are like that. They sit under the mercilessly Caribbean sun, turning the pages of a book lying in the sun to dry, surrounded by a devastated landscape. They firmly believe that the book will dry. Despite everything, they believe that tomorrow life will be better.
ON OCTOBER 14, 2016, AVSI CELEBRATED 30 YEARS OF ACTIVITIES IN KENYA. AUTHORITIES, GUESTS FROM ITALY, SWITZERLAND AND UGANDA, PARTNERS, TEACHERS, PARENTS AND STUDENTS OF LITTLE PRINCE PRIMARY SCHOOL, AVSI STAFF AND FRIENDS GATHERED TO CELEBRATE THE IMPORTANT OCCASION. AVSI REPRESENTATIVE IN THE COUNTRY ANDREA BIANCHESSI OPENED THE EVENT WITH THE FOLLOWING SPEECH:
by Andrea Bianchessi, AVSI Representative in Kenya
"I would like to briefly highlight how AVSI is planning to face some key challenges in Kenya in the next years.
First of all, our approach is based on the conviction that we are living an epochal change, as Pope Francis realistically recognized, based on the many challenges the world, but also Kenya, has to face. These challenges range from the movement of migrants and refugees, radicalization and terrorist attacks, political instability in East and Central Africa with new or protracted crisis like in Somalia, South Sudan and Burundi, youth unemployment and the rapid growth of cities to the lack of basic services in many areas of the country, either in the slums or rural areas, and including a lack of electricity that is so important for education and the development of business. To this list, I would like to add as Pope Francis had pointed out during his visit to Kenya last year: tribalism, corruption, destruction of the environment and radicalization.
Yet, although there are many challenges, Kenya has a lot of opportunities: economic development, construction of infrastructure including roads and railways, deep interconnection with the global economy, the wide-spread use of mobile phones, and social capital expressed in many SACCO (save and credit cooperative). Kenya is also demonstrating leadership in the East Africa region, as Nairobi is an international and regional hub of some important UN agencies.
In front of these challenges, we have defined the next steps for AVSI in Kenya in the coming years, in partnership with all of you:
The question remains: How are we going to reach this?
Thanks, asantenisana, grazie!
On November 16th, 2016, Fiammetta Cappellini, AVSI’s Country Representative in Haiti, and Maria Elena Latini, AVSI’s Program Manager, were invited to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Community Violence Reduction (CVR) Programs for the UN Peacekeeping Missions. The celebration took place at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The CVR program is a second generation of Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR) programs that, in Haiti, target vulnerable populations in overpopulated and underserved urban areas. AVSI has been an implementer of the program for more than 6 years and was invited to participate in the event “Creating Space for Peace” due to its “tremendously valuable support and contribution to CVR activities in Haiti”. Thanks, in part, to the success of AVSI’s approach, CVR programs have since been implemented in other countries such as Central African Republic, Darfur and Mali.
“We brought to this event our experience and expertise and we shared our involvement in the project which concentrates on the organization and reintegration of women as a strategic solution to violence reduction efforts in the community”, said Fiammetta Cappellini.
Fiammetta is referring to the projects that AVSI has been implementing in Haiti with the objective of reducing violence and more particularly a new project that started in July 2016: “Konbit pou Pwoteksyon Fanm nan Site Soley et Matisan” implemented in the West department of Port au Prince, specifically Cité Soleil and Martissant. AVSI is supporting the Haitian State, specifically the Ministry of Women and Women's Rights (MCFDF in French) in the implementation of its policy to reduce violence against women in order to detect, prevent and respond to community violence against women. More specifically, AVSI is working to prevent and accompany 200 women and girls victimized with an approach that includes local authorities, communities, schools, families, and the men responsible for acts of violence.
For the last 25 years, DDR programs have been integral parts of post-conflict peace consolidation. The aim of interventions is to reduce the size of armed forces and gangs and reintegrate ex-combatants into society with alternative livehoods. CVR Program continues the efforts of the DDR programs, but looks at the overall community including issues like rebuilding villages and allowing ex-combatants to re-enter the social live of the community. CVR programs also involve assistance in the form of ‘distracting’ activities such as sports to focus on building a community and reaching youth at risk of joining armed gangs. Unlike DDR, CVR involves the private sector and promotes female entrepreneurship to go beyond peacemaking and to transform communities.
“The success of CVR is the combination of training, employment opportunity and psychosocial support involving the community to transform it and give peace,” said Jan Voordouw, consultant who evaluated CVR program in Haiti with MINUSTAH (the UN Mission to Haiti) during the event.
The innovation of CVR is that it expands on the military approach established with DDR and promotes a more holistic, humanitarian, and people-centered approach that is proving to be highly effective. It is also easily adaptable according to the country, context and culture where it is being implemented. The next step for CVR is its expansion as a prevention tool. It does not have to be used only in post-conflict contexts.
“CVR has the ability to transform communities, have political influence, give opportunities to change lives and overall gives peace to individuals and their community,” celebrated Edmond Mulet, UN Chef de Cabinet.
AVSI’s Community Violence Reduction project results:
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