PLANO, Texas — In northwest Syria, 1.6 million Syrians are living in internally displaced person sites, according to a recent report by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The country’s devastating civil war has upended the lives of over a million people in the region. Yet, that number represents only a portion of the 6.2 million displaced people in Syria overall, according to World Vision. Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is a prominent organization striving to provide a better life for those being devastated by war, displacement and other crises in Syria.
Ghufran’s Story of Displacement
One of those displaced is a 9-year-old girl named Ghufran, according to SAMS Senior Media and Communications Manager, Lobna Hassairi, in an interview with The Borgen Project. Ghufran lives with her family in an informal settlement in northwest Syria after being forced to leave their home in 2019. Displacement is not the only issue Ghufran and her family face. After being injured during an aerial attack in Syria, Ghufran and her brother Mohamed lost the ability to walk. The injuries sustained during this experience were mental as well as physical. As a byproduct of her childhood trauma, Ghufran was unable to speak. During this time, SAMS visited the settlement where Ghufran and her family were living. After psychological and physical therapy, Ghufran can now walk and her mother is confident Mohamed will see a similar recovery. Both Ghufran and Mohamed receive ongoing support through SAMS to aid their recovery.
SAMS Mobile Clinics
Ghufran’s story represents the kind of work SAMS has done throughout northern Syria. With 40 medical facilities and three mobile clinics in Syria, SAMS has been working toward improving healthcare in some of the hardest hit areas during the Syrian civil war. SAMS currently places a heavy emphasis in both northeastern and northwestern Syria, especially by utilizing mobile clinics.
SAMS’ mobile clinics visit roughly 10 to 15 camps or informal settlements a week, sometimes more. The clinicians are able to see around 2,000 patients weekly, Hassairi explained. The typical structure of each mobile clinic includes: a general physician, midwife, a pharmacist, working pharmacy, community outreach officers and other members. These clinics are able to handle patients with both physical and psychological injuries on a continuing basis if necessary. “That’s what’s unique about these mobile clinics. They just don’t go there and they never come back. They do follow up on patients,” Hassairi said. This dexterity equips the mobile clinics to handle cases similar to Ghufran’s that have become increasingly prevalent in the region.
Syria’s Need for Healthcare
“Children have mostly been affected by this on so many levels, including psychologically,” Hassairi said. According to data from UNICEF, continued exposure to trauma and violence in the region has resulted in a doubling of children displaying psychosocial distress symptoms. Likewise, SAMS has seen an increase in cases of malnourished children, which is also reflected in UNICEF’s data. The organization reported that “more than half a million children under the age of five in Syria suffer from stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition.” According to UNICEF, 90% of Syrian children are currently in need of humanitarian assistance.
Unfortunately, obtaining healthcare has become increasingly dangerous in Syria. The IRC’s report found that 36% of hospitals and 48% of primary health care centers in Syria were not functioning. To compound matters, only 30% of the country’s healthcare workforce remains in Syria. A few reasons for Syria’s current healthcare state include attacks on hospitals and healthcare workers and blocking access to communities in need of support. Of those surveyed by the IRC in Syria, 59% reported to be “directly impacted during the course of the conflict by an attack on a health care facility, service or worker.” Of the same group, 24% reported that they were unable to get medical treatment because of an attack. These statistics reveal the importance of SAMS delivering medical care directly to the camps and settlements in need. It also illustrates the necessity of support the clinics receive, especially from people like Sami Zayn.
WWE Star Sami Zayn Partners with SAMS
Sami Zayn’s partnership with SAMS began after he realized he wanted to do more than just contribute charitably to those impacted by the Syrian civil war. Zayn also wanted to make an impact “on the ground” in the country. He focused on aiding SAMS’ mobile clinics after hearing about the attacks on hospitals and healthcare centers. Since then, Zayn has used his platform and prominence in the wrestling community to make a real impact in Syria.
“He’s been really, really amazing,” Hassairi said of Zayn’s time with SAMS. “He’s very hands-on. He always asks for updates and photos so he can share with his followers and donors as well.” Zayn’s latest fundraising effort centered around the sale of a t-shirt. The shirt depicts a viral moment of him dancing during a WWE show and has gained attention on social media. Following this wide publicity, the t-shirt received endorsements from other prominent WWE stars, such as Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins. All the money from the shirt sales went directly to support SAMS. In total, Zayn’s partnership has raised almost $200,000 for SAMS and the Sami for Syria mobile clinic he supports in northwest Syria.
SAMS Continues to Aid Syrians
The donations garnered from Zayn’s fundraiser will help SAMS continue its great work assisting internally displaced people in Syria. As the Syrian civil war continues, SAMS will remain a positive influence in the region by continuing to tackle malnourishment, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and various other healthcare issues Syrians may face. SAMS is committed to aiding these affected communities to the best of its abilities. Millions have experienced tremendous hardships due to the war and are in dire need of aid. SAMS and all of its partners provide the much-needed hope during the chaos of continuous war.
– Brett Grega
Photo: Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)