COMMENTARY

Health Professionals Respond to Syria's Humanitarian Crisis

Samer Attar, MD

Disclosures

January 22, 2014

In This Article

Acknowledgment: I would like to acknowledge the following, who share the views expressed in this article and who stand in solidarity with me on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria:

Mohamed Abdalla, MD, anesthesiologist and Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Case Western Reserve University, who has volunteered at the Jordanian-Syrian border.

Bassel Atassi, MD, internal medicine physician and medical oncologist, Little Company of Mary Hospital, Evergreen Park, Illinois, who has volunteered in Jordan and Turkey with the Syrian American Medical Society.

Lina Sergie Attar, President and cofounder of Karam Foundation, who has volunteered at refugee camps in Turkey.

Richard Gosselin, MD, orthopedic surgeon and Codirector of the Institute for Global Orthopaedics and Traumatology, who has volunteered with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Lebanon and Jordan.

Jaber Monla-Hassan, MD, FCCP, critical care specialist, who has volunteered in field hospitals in Syria with the Syrian American Medical Society.

Mary Ana McGlasson, MN, NP, Senior Coordinator for Emergency Response for Relief International, focusing on the Syria crisis in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

Yahia Abdul Rahim, MD, pediatric specialist, who has volunteered in field hospitals in Syria with the Syrian American Medical Society.

Zaher Sahoul, MD, FCCP, President of the Syrian American Medical Society.

Nicole Tung, freelance photojournalist who has worked in Lebanon and Syria; traveled with Doctors Without Borders in Syria; and published photos documenting the impact of war on civilians in Die Zeit, Vanity Fair, and TIME.

Lewis Zirkle, MD, orthopedic surgeon and President and Founder of SIGN Fracture International, who volunteered in Turkey.

A Healthcare Crisis Intensifies

United Nations (UN) leaders have called the conflict in Syria "the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times," and they have appealed for a record $6.5 billion in funds for Syrian aid in 2014.[1,2] What started as peaceful protests in March 2011 have led to 3 years of brutal conflict, with innocent, vulnerable, noncombatant civilians paying the largest price.

So far, 100,000 people have been killed, including more than 11,000 children.[3,4] More than 575,000 people have been wounded, and many are "invisible victims," disabled by amputations or paralyzed by spinal cord injuries.[5] The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that more than 10 million Syrians -- one half of the country's prewar population, and 5 million of whom are children -- will need humanitarian aid in 2014.[6,7]

Ongoing systematic and deliberate assaults on civilian infrastructures are adding to these numbers.[8] Civilian populations continue to endure shelling, sniper fire, starvation, and blockades to food and medicine. Medics, aid workers, patients, and journalists are still being detained, attacked, tortured, and murdered. Hospitals, bakeries, schools, and ambulances continue to be militarized, attacked, and destroyed. An entire generation of children is threatened with sickness and malnutrition, and traumatized by displacement and war. Extremist groups are violently asserting their influence through kidnapping, intimidation, and murder. Refugees suffer harsh conditions, while neighboring countries are overwhelmed as they struggle to accommodate the overflowing numbers who flee the violence daily.

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