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Failure to Renew Cross Border Resolution Will Put Millions of Lives at Risk in Northwest Syria

Edinburg, TX – As winter settles in bringing even more misery to the Syrian people, the looming threat of the failure to renew the United Nations Security Council Cross Border Resolution 2504 will put millions of lives in danger in northwest Syria. The vote is scheduled for January 10, 2023.

International funding has already decreased significantly in the region causing the loss of vital facilities, further adding to the suffering of over 4 million people at unprecedented levels. The spread of diseases and epidemics are an imminent threat if food and clean water deliveries are halted. Over 3 million people in the region are food insecure. Ongoing internal displacement continues to cause a rise in food and medical needs.

Winter continues to be the harshest time of year for displaced families. Last year, 30% of displacement camps were flooded by rain or snow.

According to the Syrian NGO Alliance (SNA), closing the border will lead to the closure of approximately 70 hospitals, over 180 health care centers, and over 80 mobile clinics that provide medical and primary health care services to over 4 million people in northwest Syria. This border crossing is considered a lifeline and is vital for millions in northwest Syria.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, President of UOSSM USA said, “Decisions on humanitarian aid should only be based on the extent of human need and suffering and not on politics. There are millions that will suffer if this lifeline is closed. We call on the international community to extend the resolution to ensure the most basic human needs, which is the bare minimum guaranteed by international laws. The resolution extension will ultimately save lives.”

Displaced children in northwest Syria

Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) boards and staff throughout the world condemn the attack in Istanbul that has killed at least six people and injured 81. The attack happened in busy Istiklal Street earlier Sunday afternoon. It is still unclear who carried out the attack.

UOSSM condemns all attacks on innocent civilians and stands in solidarity with the Turkish people and the Turkish government.

Dr. Ghanem Tayara, President of UOSSM International said, “Our hearts are with the victims and the families of this horrific attack. The attack happened in the middle of the day on a very busy street filled with families enjoying their Sunday. We stand in solidarity with the Turkish people and government who have stood by and supported Syrians through their darkest and most difficult times. Innocent civilians are never a target. We hope the Turkish government finds those responsible and brings them to justice.”

Edinburg, TX – On Sunday, November 6, 2022, at 7:00 a.m. Damascus time, the Kafar Jalis Displacement Camp in northwest Syria was attacked by cluster bombs killing nine civilians, including three children and one woman, according to the Syrian Civil Defense. Over 75 others were wounded in the attack. Thousands of displaced people live in the camp that was attacked on Sunday.

In a separate attack, two civilians were injured in artillery shelling in the outskirts of Areeha and the village of Sarmin, south of Idlib.

These attacks were the first major attacks in a relatively calm year in Syria.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, President of UOSSM USA said, “It is deeply disturbing to hear of these attacks that once again targeted innocent civilians, using internationally prohibited cluster bombs. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, who are just trying to survive, in dire conditions. These bombings further add to their suffering. We call on the international community to stop these attacks on innocent civilians and to hold those responsible, accountable for their crimes. The lives of innocent families are in danger if attacks like this are not stopped.”

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OCTOBER 19, 2022

 

UOSSM USA Partners with U.S. Department of State and Bareeq Educational Enrichment Center to Provide Enrichment and Psychosocial Support Services to Refugees and Underserved Children in Jordan

Edinburg, TX – UOSSM USA was recently awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of State to support educational enrichment integrated with psychosocial support services (PSS) to refugee and underserved children in Jordan. Working in collaboration with Bareeq Educational Enrichment Center (BEEC) in Amman, this after-school program will assist 400 children in becoming better prepared to integrate into local school systems. UOSSM USA will leverage this partnership to incorporate a refugee responsive teaching competencies model (RRTCM) that will enable refugee children to access enrichment programming after school, while also strengthening the capacity of teachers to provide academic enrichment through social emotional learning (SEL) and psychosocial support services (PSS)-specific activities.

The primary objectives of this after-school program are to:

  1. Improve academic skills of the children via remedial and enrichment programming in an inclusive environment.
  2. Strengthen the capacity of teachers to provide academic curricula that improves the child’s academic performance and overall wellbeing.
  3. Enhance the children’s coping mechanisms by providing psychosocial support services (PSS) and fostering social emotional learning (SEL) skills to mitigate their trauma while providing mental health referrals as needed.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, President of UOSSM USA stated, “We are honored to build upon our partnership with the Bareeq Center and have this opportunity to continue enriching the education of these children and providing the psychosocial support they so desperately need. Many of these children are Syrian refugees who have witnessed unimaginable atrocities, the loss of loved ones, displacement, and other traumatic experiences. Through this collaboration, we hope to help these children overcome their trauma and empower them with fair and equal access to education. With the support of the U.S. Department of State, these children will receive the nurturance they need to improve their overall wellbeing and contribute positively to our global society.  Children are our future – they are our hope for a better tomorrow. We are very pleased to be a part of this transformational journey which will help them heal as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.”

Edinburg, TX – Fears of a Cholera outbreak are growing among the health sector in northwest Syria. With an already strained health care system due to years of war, attacks on healthcare facilities, and most recently, COVID, fears have become a reality with the first two Cholera cases confirmed on September 17.  This has now become an imminent danger, putting vulnerable lives at risk. The suspected main culprit of the Cholera outbreak is unclean water from the Euphrates River used for drinking and watering crops (resulting in food contamination), and improper sewage among displacement camps.

The two patients were hospitalized from the Marma All Hajar Village in Jarablus and were experiencing acute watery diarrhea, vomiting with fever, and severe dehydration – all symptoms consistent with Cholera. As of October 4, there were 488 total suspected cases in northwest Syria, and 114 cases in Nabaa Al Salam (Peace Spring) according to EWARN Syria. Those numbers continue to rise.

The outbreak began in northeast Syria in early September. As of October 4, there were 8228 suspected cases, and 23 deaths in northeast Syria, according to EWARN Syria.

UOSSM is responding with preventative measures in northwest Syria for mild to moderate cases including:

1. Providing healthcare centers with infection prevention and control (IPC) means.

2. Providing healthcare facilities with Cholera kits and activating oral rehydration points in each health facility, to provide oral rehydration solution for patients to prevent dehydration, and to prevent escalation to severe illness.

3. Providing community wide awareness campaigns via community health workers (CHWs) – with awareness messages about Cholera and prevention methods – created by the health cluster.

4.Training community health workers to refer suspected cases to healthcare centers to receive appropriate care in a timely manner.

5. Providing capacity building for Trainers of Trainers (ToT) for health care workers. They will then train other healthcare providers and community health workers to have the capacity and ability to provide correct and accurate information, and to provide referrals to healthcare centers.

The CHWs will be responsible for:

– Providing awareness messages

– Distributing hygiene kits and oral rehydration solutions

– Referring suspected cases

For severe cases, UOSSM seeks to establish Cholera Treatment Units (CTU), treatment units attached to existing health facilities in northwest Syria.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, president of UOSSM USA said, “We are deeply concerned that this outbreak could turn into an epidemic in northern Syria, further adding to the suffering these families are experiencing every day. The health sector in Syria, which is already strained beyond capacity, needs more support to prepare for such dire situations, which could potentially cause widespread illness and many deaths. We call on the international community to ensure the health sector is supported so it can respond to such an outbreak if needed.”

UOSSM USA was recently awarded two grants by Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) for the support of two food insecurity projects in Cincinnati, Ohio.  With rising prices across the nation, many families are struggling just to keep up. Consequently, securing healthy food is no longer a priority in the face of rising costs.  But with the support of IRUSA, UOSSM USA has been helping these families overcome the challenge of food insecurity.

During the holy month of Ramadan (April), UOSSM USA partnered with the Islamic Association of Cincinnati (IAC) – Clifton Mosque to distribute 80 food baskets to 75 vulnerable families through its food pantry. These food baskets were comprised of food essentials such as meat, bread, beans, rice, lentils, and dates, needed to keep families healthy.

During the month of Dhul Hijjah (July), UOSSM USA partnered with Casablanca Market in Cincinnati to distribute close to 1,400 pounds of Adahi/Qurbani (lamb) meat to 184 vulnerable families.

Since 2018, UOSSM has been distributing food essentials in Syria and Jordan to families in need. The nutrition provided helps protect their health by building strength and immunity through nutrition ultimately aiding in warding off disease. UOSSM USA is now leading similar efforts in local communities within the US.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, President of UOSSM USA expressed: “It was wonderful to partner with Islamic Relief USA and our local partners for these food insecurity projects that are so needed right here in our Cincinnati community. UOSSM USA has been doing this type of work for many years for needy, displaced, refugee, and underserved families in areas of crisis such as Syria and Jordan, but thanks to the generous support of Islamic Relief USA and that of our local partners, we are able to bring this type of humanitarian relief to our local communities. We are helping to strengthen the health and overall wellbeing of these families.  But more importantly, we are giving these families not only hope, but also the dignity to persevere.”

 

Edinburg, TX – On Friday, August 19, 15 civilians were killed, including five children, and over 30 others were injured, including at least 11 children, in military attacks on a popular market, a school, and civilian homes in Al Bab in northern Syria. The school and homes were significantly damaged.

Many displaced families live in Al Bab after seeking refuge from major attacks in 2018-2019. Al Bab is one of the largest cities in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, president of UOSSM USA said, “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families of these heinous crimes against innocent civilians. Over the years, Al Bab has been the subject of several military bombings and attacks, an area where displaced families have moved to as a last resort fleeing violence. We just commemorated the ninth year since the chemical attack in Ghouta and civilians continue to be targeted to this day. We call on the international community to put a stop to attacks on civilians and civilian areas, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Attacks on civilian areas leave 15 dead including 5 children.

Edinburg, TX – Millions of lives are in imminent danger and the situation could be catastrophic if the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) fails to renew the UNSC 2504 Cross Border resolution by July 10, 2022. Needs continue to rise at unprecedented levels, and more Syrians are now at risk for hunger than any other time in the past 11 years. With over 70% of the population experiencing food insecurity, and the cost of food continuing to rise exponentially. Closing the cross-border could result in catastrophic consequences.

 

According to a letter signed by 32 NGO leaders, “Converging crises and economic shocks including drought, inflation, economic collapse among Syria’s neighbors, and the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded an already dire humanitarian situation. As a result, today more than 14.6 million Syrians are dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, including 4.1 million people living in the northwest who are largely reliant on cross-border humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs.”

 

In 2021, the UN-led cross-border response allowed humanitarian actors to reach over 2.4 million people per month, which includes food for 1.8 million people, nutrition assistance to 85,000, education for 78,000 children, and access to life-saving dignity kits for 250,000 women and girls. In addition, delivery of critical medical items and supplies needed to provide lifesaving health services and response to COVID-19, and to increase people’s resilience to cope with adverse weather conditions helped save lives.

 

There are over two million people in need of medical assistance in Idlib. Closing the border will not only result in hunger and malnutrition but also leave the most vulnerable including newborn babies, their mothers, and patients with life-threatening illnesses and diseases without access to the care and medicine they need and deserve, resulting in countless unnecessary deaths.

 

We call on the UN, INGOs and the international community to ensure that desperately needed aid continues to reach the most vulnerable families in Syria and to prevent a catastrophic situation to millions in the region by renewing the cross-border assistance resolution for the Bab Al-Hawa Crossing to NW Syria.

 

Dr. Khaula Sawah, President of UOSSM USA said, “We implore the international community to save lives by renewing the cross-border resolution. Closing the border will have catastrophic consequences on the most vulnerable of people living in dire conditions. 75% of those displaced families in northwest Syria are children and women, that rely on humanitarian aid and relief to survive. The UNSC and the international community must do the right thing continuing to allow aid in through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing, which will ultimately save lives and prevent mass starvation. Millions of lives are at stake.”

Displaced Syrian Children

Edinburg, TX – UOSSM completed its fourth medical mission in Ukraine which lasted for two weeks in early June. The medical mission included surgical trainings for surgeons on the frontlines and meetings and planning for future UOSSM work in Ukraine.

The surgical trainings, led by UOSSM, and in partnership with the David Nott Foundation (DNF), were planned and facilitated by Dr. Ahmad Dbais and the UOSSM Ukraine team. Dr. Khaula Sawah and Dr. Monzer Yazji, both co-founders of UOSSM USA, joined the surgical trainings.
The DNF and team, led by world renowned war doctor, Dr. David Nott, who have worked with UOSSM in the past in Syria and have experience in war medicine in war inflicted areas, wanted to help local doctors and surgeons by providing these vital trainings. The main objective of the Hostile Environment Surgical Trainings (HEST) was to share expertise with local surgeons on the frontlines.

 

Surgeons receiving HEST training in Ukraine
UOSSM facilitated the logistics of the surgical trainings coordinating with local authorities and invited surgeons with different specialties to attend the courses.

The HEST trainings included one three-day course in Dnipro, where 38 surgeons received the training, and another three-day training in Kharkiv, where 30 surgeons received the intensive and engaging training course. The trainee surgeons were very appreciative and felt they benefitted greatly from the training courses. Both cities have been on the frontlines and under attack causing many war injuries. The surgical trainings will help give surgeons the tools and expertise they need to treat war injuries and ultimately save lives. Dr. Nott and team posted on the David Nott Foundation page, “We want doctors to feel empowered – sometimes all that’s needed is confidence. We want doctors to feel inspired to learn and try the techniques they’ve seen on our course.”

In addition to the trainings, one complicated surgery was also performed on a patient with war wounds.
UOSSM will continue to provide medical training to doctors from the expertise gained from over 10 years of war in Syria.
UOSSM and DNF teams at HEST trainings in Ukraine
Dr. Sawah met with the director of the Ukrainian Ministry of Public Health Center of Emergency Medical Aid and Disaster Medicine, Dr. Vitaliy Kryliuk (Віталій Крилюк) after the Dnipro training. Dr. Kruylik was impressed with the work UOSSM is doing on the ground in Ukraine and emphasized on the importance to provide doctors and surgeons with more advanced, structured, vital trainings, and to provide Training of Trainers (ToTs) courses to advance the skills of Ukrainian surgeons to handle and treat war zone injuries in particular on the frontlines to train fellow Ukrainian surgeons.

UOSSM doctors felt the duty to provide Ukrainian doctors and patients with support and invaluable expertise gained from the 11-year Syrian crisis.

Dr. Sawah said, “We know exactly how the Ukrainian doctors and civilians are feeling, and what they are experiencing. The brutal effects of war…the fear…the helplessness…the uncertainty…that is why we chose to share our experiences and expertise gained over the past 11 years in Syria, with the Ukrainian people. We want to help save lives. It was heartwarming to see people just come up to us and thank us for our support especially after they knew where we came from and what we have been doing for over a decade in Syria. We hope to continue to have more impact in Ukraine, supporting civilians with medical and humanitarian relief, and doctors and healthcare professionals with vital training and support to help save lives.”

Dr. Sawah added, “The UOSSM Ukraine team is making a difference every day with these trainings, mental health workshops, and medical and humanitarian relief amid the massive displacement during the last three months.”
Dr. Sawah met with the director of the Ukrainian Ministry of Public Health Center of Emergency Medical Aid and Disaster Medicine, Dr. Vitaliy Kryliuk
UOSSM/David Nott Foundation Surgical Trainings in Ukraine

UOSSM has been responding to the crisis in Ukraine by providing expertise gained from over 10 years of war in Syria through medical missions and training. On April 2 -12, UOSSM, in partnership with British renowned war doctor, Dr. David Nott of the David Nott Foundation, led a surgical medical mission, providing training workshops to doctors, and critical surgeries to patients affected by the war in Ukraine. Dr. David Nott, Dr. Monzer Yazji, Dr. Ahmad Dbais and Dr. Mohammed Zaidiye all contributed and coordinated in the surgical medical mission.

Throughout the 10 days, the medical mission team visited seven major hospitals throughout several geographical locations in eastern, central, and western Ukraine, where complex reconstructive and plastic surgeries were performed on victims of attacks. 40 doctors observed and received trainings during the surgeries. In addition, three workshops were provided to over 37 doctors with different surgical specialties.  The workshops taught doctors about damage and impact on the human body from different types of weapons during war, different types of trauma resulting from these weapons, and response handling these injuries including damage control, emergency surgery, and plastic and reconstructive surgery.

A new surgical medical mission is being planned in June to provide support to the doctors and people of Ukraine.

Dr. David Nott wrote on his foundation page about his visit in Ukraine, “Now having seen the devastation, it feels like the exact same tactics as in Syria. When I was in Aleppo in 2016, the whole region was completely and utterly destroyed. What we’re seeing in cities like Mariupol – the destruction – feels very similar to what I witnessed in Aleppo.”

UOSSM Ukraine was established in Ukraine with an office in Lutsk and two medical clinics, one in Lviv and one in Lutsk, providing urgent medical care to displaced Ukrainians and vital trainings to doctors and medical staff.

Dr. Monzer Yazji, co-founder of UOSSM USA said, “As Dr. Nott and I were visiting hospitals in Ukraine, we witnessed very similar severe injuries to the ones we witnessed in Syria. It was harrowing to see this type of history repeat itself and victims with the same types of horrible injuries. Our duty is to help the innocent civilians by providing them with urgent medical care, and support doctors by providing medical training on handling war-related injuries that they desperately need. The duty of the international community is to ensure that these types of attacks are never repeated again, anywhere in the world.”

You can support UOSSM’s medical mission work by clicking here.

 

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