WHO delivers health care to displaced people in north-west Syrian Arab Republic

Photo: SEMA (Syrian Expatriates Medical Association)

2 July 2019 --To meet the needs of the recently displaced people in north-west Syrian Arab Republic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have deployed eight mobile clinics since the beginning of May 2019. These mobile clinics are often the only source of health care to people who have been cut off from access to regular health services as a result of the ongoing conflict in the area. On average, each of these mobile clinics provides between 1500 to 1800 health consultations per month and ensures referrals to the closest health facility if further care is needed.

North-west Syrian Arab Republic remains one of the most volatile regions of Syrian Arab Republic and hosts a population of around 4 million, including large numbers of internally displaced people from other parts of the country. In May 2019 alone, as a result of the recent escalation of the conflict in north Hama and south Idleb governorates, it is estimated that an additional 330 000 people were displaced. Most moved towards the north of Idleb governorate, close to the Turkish border. There is a pressing need to reach every person with much needed healthcare.

WHO has deployed eight mobile clinics to provide primary healthcare services for displaced people in the arrival areas. Each mobile clinic, consisting of a doctor, a midwife, a nurse and a community health worker, offers services for child health, nutrition, communicable and non-communicable diseases, maternal and newborn health, and is equipped with essential medicines and medical devices. Mobile units rotate across several communities for internally displaced people ensuring the provision of basic health care services and coordinating the referral and transportation of patients to other health facilities whenever this is required. With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on average, each of these mobile clinics provides between 1500 to 1800 health consultations per month.

“Given the scale of the ongoing population displacement, the mobile services are the most efficient way to rapidly increase access to essential health services by the Syrians in need,” said Annette Heinzelmann, Emergency Coordinator with the WHO field office in Gaziantep, Turkey from which all cross-border work into north-west Syrian Arab Republic is coordinated.

To support the delivery of health care in this volatile security context, WHO supports five surgical units. These are mobile units, set-up in various locations for primary surgical interventions and stabilization prior to referrals to the closest hospital. Through these units, WHO’s partners can offer emergency care to patients that are physically too far away from hospitals or are inaccessible due to insecurity. Of these five units, two have been set up close to Sarmada and Atma, specifically for the needs of the internally displaced, whilst three remain in the southern Idleb countryside. They are supported by 13 ambulances.

Help for people in crisis or despair

Photo: SEMA (Syrian Expatriates Medical Association)

Mobile clinics have also been used to provide mental healthcare to the displaced, who are vulnerable to experience psychological distress and mental health conditions. To bring mental health services directly to the affected people, WHO, with funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), supports the work of four mental health mobile clinics which served approximately 4320 internally displaced people over the past month. During visits to the camps, mental health professionals identify residents with mental health problems to provide counselling and support.

Prevention is better than cure

Photo: SEMA (Syrian Expatriates Medical Association)

As part of the ongoing response to the massive population displacement, WHO has continued to provide routine immunization to children, including to the newly displaced. Due to the ongoing conflict, the work of two WHO-supported routine immunization centers has been suspended and one is no longer accessible. However, through the remaining 37 WHO-supported centers, thousands of Syrian children are protected against polio, measles, diphtheria and other childhood diseases. In the areas with large numbers of displaced people, social mobilizers are deployed to inform newly arrived populations about the available immunization services and centers so that the most vulnerable children don’t miss out on the routine vaccines.

Photo: SEMA (Syrian Expatriates Medical Association)