DAMASCUS, Syria — Intense conflict has been raging on in Syria for over three years now with no foreseeable end. However, Syria is no stranger to controversy. A BBC profile on Syria outlines the country’s tumultuous military and political history, highlighting Syria’s tension with Lebanon, conflict with Israel, anti-government sentiments expressed by Syrian citizens and the uprising that immersed Syria in civil war.
The conflict has displaced nearly 10 percent of the country’s 21.1 million citizens. The BBC states “the daily flow of men, women, and children has become one of the largest forced migrations since World War Two.”
According to The U.N. Refugee Agency, there are more than 2.8 million Syrian refugees seeking aid from the agency. These refugees have fled to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The largest number, over 1 million, have fled to Lebanon. Of the $4.2 billion that would be necessary to provide sufficient aid, only $1.1 billion has been received.
The International Medical Corps has been providing health care in Syria since 2007, initially aiding Iraqi refugees who fled during the Iraq war. Since then, they have “established [themselves]as a key player in the health sector in Syria with strong technical capacity in primary health care, mental health and psychosocial support services.” However, since internal conflict in Syria escalated dramatically over the past few years, the International Medical Corps extended their services to the bordering countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, where new refugees are in dire need of health care.
The organization has outlined their programs in the affected region, stating that within Syria alone, 9.5 million people “are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.” Mobile units and other facilities are used to perform consultations. In addition to direct health care initiatives, they have provided counseling services, first aid kits and hygiene campaigns in shelters, among various other efforts. In Jordan, the International Medical Corps states that they are focused on providing sufficient psychosocial support services due to the recent inundation of new refugees. They have also partnered with Jordan Health Aid Society for providing medical care.
Primary health care and psychosocial support is provided in Lebanon, where the International Medical Corps operates from mobile units as well as stationary centers, which are proposed to increase from 10 to 39. In Iraq, efforts are focused on particular refugee camps and “areas where the sick and disabled have difficulty reaching PHC clinics.” Throughout clinics in Turkey, the organization has been able to reach refugees and provide primary health care and psychosocial services.
The ever-increasing number of Syrian refugees makes the need for monetary aid and adequate health care a necessity. As the first American NGO to work in Syria, the International Medical Corps established itself as a reputable presence in an otherwise broken country. Starting with just two clinics in Syria, they have expanded into a large network of mobile units, centers and clinics that have provided the urgent medical care that refugees so desperately need.