Direct Relief

Emergency Update: Direct Relief’s Response to the Syrian Crisis Continues

A young girl receives skin care in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Direct Relief has been supporting medical care, both within Syria and in neighboring countries, throughout the conflict. (Photo by Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)

As enduring turmoil and devastation in Syria persist, Direct Relief remains committed to supporting health care for refugees and those living within the country’s borders. Since 2011, Direct Relief has responded to the Syrian crisis by providing more than $57 million in medical aid.

Nearly 5 million people have fled Syria since the beginning of the country’s civil war six years ago. Another 6.3 million are internally displaced, meaning they’ve remained in the country but have had to flee their homes. Within Syria, healthcare access is a challenge for people who have been displaced from their homes.

Direct Relief continues to send essential items, like emergency health kits. The kits meet the global standard for emergency response and can treat up to 1,000 patients for 30 days. Direct Relief has provided groups like Syria Relief and Development with field medic packs, which contain an assortment of portable medicines.

Direct Relief staff pack emergency health kits, which are designed to enable a quick, effective response to disasters. (Bryn Blanks/Direct Relief)

Direct Relief has focused not only on aid to patients but also to healthcare workers inside the country. Relentless bombings of health clinics and hospitals in Syria have killed more than 800 health workers, according to the medical journal Lancet, and medicines and protective gear have been shipped to frontline health workers as a result.

Because many local hospitals and clinics have been destroyed, doctors and nurses to treat patients wherever they can. Emergency medical tents have also been sent by Direct Relief, and the tents allow a temporary space for triage care to take place.

Here are four ways Direct Relief continues to support health care in the region.

  1. Protecting frontline health workers from chemical attacks: Direct Relief has shipped more than 10,000 doses of sarin gas antidote to protect healthcare workers and patients at risk of chemical attack inside Syria. After an April 4, 2017, sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikoun killed more than 80 people, including several doctors and health workers, groups like the Syrian American Medical Society requested antidotes and personal protective gear. Emergency health kits were also sent, each of which contained over 150 essential items like antibiotics, surgical tools, and trauma and wound care supplies. These kits went to groups like SAMS, the Independent Doctors Association, and Syria Relief and Development, all of which have medical personnel working on the ground inside Syria.

    A Syrian man and his son visit a free clinic in Jordan in 2016 that was set up in partnership with the Vaseline Healing Project and the Jordan Health Aid Society. (Photo by Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)

  2. Preventing complications from chronic conditions: Non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, remain leading causes of death for refugees. Many refugees seek safety in neighboring countries, including Jordan, where nearly 700,000 Syrian refugees are living. Direct Relief gave $300,000 to the Royal Health Awareness Society in Jordan for their Healthy Community Clinics program, and the effort focuses on treating non-communicable diseases. Tobacco use is also common among refugees, and smoking cessation gum was donated to the Royal Health Awareness Society. Other key items to manage chronic conditions, like insulin, needles and syringes were distributed to charitable healthcare providers by Jordan’s Ministry of Health.

    Skin care is often neglected until conditions become serious, so proper exams and screening are critical. (Photo by Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)

  3. Caring for skin issues: Skin conditions often go untreated and can lead to troubling health issues, such as physical pain, infection and the inability to work. To help Syrian refugees at risk of these issues, Direct Relief partnered with the Vaseline Healing Project to organize a six-day mission to treat and document skin conditions among refugees living in a high-need, rural area of Jordan. Dermatological outreach took place in the Zaatari Syrian refugee camp for people with skin-related injuries, infections or diseases.
  4. Supporting healthy pregnancies: Pregnant women and developing babies are particularly at risk of micronutrient deficiencies. Direct Relief produces and distributes prenatal vitamins to organizations throughout the region who are providing maternal and child health services to Syrian refugees and vulnerable nationals. Mobile medical tents have also been sent, providing privacy for doctors and patients during exams.