The challenges and our response
Syria’s civil war, now in its ninth year with no end in sight, has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and sparked the largest population exodus since World War II, with more than 6 million displaced inside Syria and more than 5.6 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Many of those displaced inside Syria 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.
At the same time, we have been supporting tens of thousands of the millions of Syrians who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, including in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. And when the door briefly opened for refugees to enter Europe, International Medical Corps was there to help as they landed on Greek islands following often-perilous journeys across the Mediterranean.
With operations based in Damascus, in 2018 International Medical Corps supported 328,800 beneficiaries. We also performed more than 254,000 primary healthcare consultations, 17% of which were for children below 5 years of age; engaged more than 4,300 people in psychosocial support activities; and provided hygiene kits or other related items to nearly 90,000 individuals. In addition, through our capacity-building interventions aimed at strengthening resilience among the affected population, in 2018 International Medical Corps trained more than 2,600 local healthcare workers.
Our emergency response experts, including our mobile medical units, work rapidly to address ongoing emergencies and the 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, including assistance for those suffering from physical disabilities by providing medical aids (such as wheelchairs, walkers, air mattresses and toilet chairs).
Civil war has taken a tremendous toll on Syria’s healthcare 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 cases that result from damage to nearby facilities, and are hampered by limited supplies and equipment, as well as shortages of qualified staff. International Medical Corps, in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), currently supports three static and three mobile primary healthcare clinics in Syria.
These facilities provide vital primary healthcare 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. We also provide support for life-threatening and disability-causing conditions by referring patients 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 those affected cope with emotional distress and trauma, International Medical Corps integrates mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) into routine healthcare 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 designed for youth), and a rehabilitation program for children with developmental delays and disorders.
International Medical Corps provides protection interventions, including prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV), as part of all our programming. We provide case management for GBV survivors and run awareness campaigns in displacement shelters and healthcare clinics. In addition, in collaboration with accredited institutions, International Medical Corps offers vocational training and startup kits to vulnerable displaced and local populations, to help build resilience and restore livelihoods.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
International Medical Corps runs hygiene-promotion campaigns in displacement shelters, schools and communities, as part of 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 materials and tools tailored to the Syrian context that other humanitarian aid organisations in Syria have adopted. We recently updated the materials to include tools specifically geared toward children. So far, International Medical Corps has trained more than 400 SARC volunteers and 25 staff members of various international NGOs on hygiene promotion.
International Medical Corps trains frontline health workers operating within the areas of mental health and psychosocial services, child-protection services, gender-based violence prevention and response, and hygiene promotion. Since 2015, in collaboration with UNHCR, International Medical Corps has provided various technical training programs and capacity-building activities to thousands of Syrian responders. These programs directly support our mission to foster self-reliance among populations affected by crises.