The challenges and our response
Syria’s civil war is now in its ninth year with no end in sight. The conflict has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and has sparked the largest population exodus since World War II, with more than six and one-half million displaced inside Syria and over five and one half million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
An estimated 2.3 million remain trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, where they are at risk of human rights violations. Many lack even the most basic assistance in what has become the largest and most complex humanitarian catastrophe in our world today.
International Medical Corps has been helping those displaced in Damascus and other Governorates of Syria since the start of the conflict.
Simultaneously, we continue to support tens of thousands of the 5.6 million Syrians who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries or further afield, including Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan. In addition, when the door briefly opened for refugees to enter Europe, International Medical Corps was there to assist them as they landed on Greek island beaches following oft-perilous journeys across the Mediterranean.
With operations based in Damascus, in 2017 International Medical Corps performed over 415,000 primary healthcare consultations, 15% of which were for children below 5 years of age; screened almost 9,000 children for malnutrition, provided over 3,800 people with mental health and psychosocial support, reached over 3,200 people with psychosocial activities; and provided emergency relief supplies to over 270,000 people. In addition, through its capacity-building interventions aimed at strengthening resilience among the affected population, in 2017 International Medical Corps trained nearly 1,800 local health workers in mental health and psychosocial services as well as protection services.
Emergency Response: Our emergency response experts, including our mobile medical units, work rapidly to address ongoing emergencies and the massive needs of families fleeing violence, ensuring increased access to primary healthcare services. International Medical Corps regularly distributes relief supplies to tens of thousands of people in need. This includes medical aids for people suffering from physical disabilities such as wheelchairs, walkers, air mattresses and toilet chairs, as well as hygiene items such as soap, shampoo and nappies.
Health Care: Civil war has taken a tremendous toll on Syria’s health care system, damaging and destroying many hospitals and clinics, and causing countless doctors and nurses to flee the country. Furthermore, many health facilities have become overburdened and unable to deal with the surge in caseloads that result from damage to nearby facilities, limited supplies and equipment, and shortages of qualified staff. International Medical Corps, in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), currently supports three statics and two mobile primary healthcare clinics in Syria. These facilities provide vital primary health care services to Syrian families, including care for communicable and non-communicable diseases, mother and child health, reproductive health services, management of moderate malnutrition, and individual and group health education sessions. We also provide financial support for life and disability threatening conditions through referrals to contracted private hospitals and follow-up services.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support: The war has exposed Syrian families to extreme levels of violence. They have lost their loved ones, livelihoods and homes. To help Syrians cope with emotional distress and trauma, International Medical Corps integrates mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) into routine health care services. Our Recreational Activity Center in Jaramana in rural Damascus offers a wide range of activities to provide psychosocial support to children and families, including programs specifically targeting youth, as well as a rehabilitation program for children with developmental delays and disorders.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: International Medical Corps runs hygiene promotion campaigns in displacement shelters, schools and communities in an effort to prevent disease outbreaks and keep vulnerable families healthy. We also distribute hygiene kits and other basic materials and tools that help people stay clean and healthy. In addition, International Medical Corps has developed a training manual on hygiene education concepts and developed Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials and tools tailored to the Syrian context, which other NGO actors inside Syria have adopted. We recently updated the materials to include tools specifically addressed to children. So far, International Medical Corps has reached over 400 SARC volunteers and 25 staff members of various international NGOs with training on hygiene promotion.
Protection: International Medical Corps mainstreams protection interventions within all our programming, including prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV). We provide case management for GBV survivors and run awareness campaigns in displacement shelters and health care clinics. In addition, in collaboration with accredited institutions, International Medical Corps offers vocational training and startup kits to vulnerable displaced and local populations to support in building resilience and restoring livelihoods.
Capacity Strengthening: International Medical Corps is the lead organisation in Syria providing capacity building for frontline health workers operating within mental health and psychosocial services; child protection services; gender-based violence prevention and response; and hygiene promotion technical sectors. Since 2015 and in collaboration with UNHCR, International Medical Corps has conducted various technical trainings and capacity-building activities targeting over 3,000 Syrian responders. These trainings directly support our mission to foster self-reliance amongst populations affected by war and disaster.