Annual Report 2013

Originally published
View original


A doctor operating on a baby with light from a mobile telephone.

A girl severely burned in a massive explosion.

Governmen-controlled or contested areas; urban or rural: contexts vary, but stories converge.

The year 2013 was marked by the unprecedented suffering of the Syrian people, with more than a third of all Syrian families affected by the continuing crisis. The number of people injured and disabled in the conflict continued to rise.

Those not directly wounded also suffered the conflict‟s harsh effects. The disruption of the health system and greatly reduced access to health services, meant that many people were unable to receive essential medicines to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure. Almost three quarters of the country‟s hospitals have been damaged, and almost half of those have ceased to function altogether.

The breakdown of public health programmes was dramatically illustrated by the re--emergence of polio in Syria, which had been polio--free since 1995. With safe water supplies one third of pre-crisis levels, thousands of people have been exposed to diarrhoeal diseases. With deteriorating food security, the population‟s nutritional status and resilience have declined. The physical and mental health impact of the crisis will be felt for generations to come.

We cannot wait for the conflict to end before addressing the devastation to Syria‟s health care system.

Only innovation, flexibility and tenacity will allow us to tackle obstacles in a sustained and strategic manner.

Together with its partners, WHO has adopted approaches to ensure immediate results and promote long-term sustainability. These efforts include training local organizations, establishing a network of national NGOs to deliver essential health care, and strengthening disease surveillance at all levels.

WHO‟s work monitoring and responding to communicable diseases serves to illustrate progress made. WHO has worked closely with diverse stakeholders at community level to enhance disease surveillance. Thanks to these efforts, the Early Warning and Response System (EWARS) is gaining momentum. Over 441 surveillance sites throughout the country are now reporting regularly through EWARS. Almost one third of these sites are in opposition-controlled areas. EWARS covers the entire population: the young and the old, the internally displaced, refugees from neighbouring countries, and local communities. Through EWARS, rapid response teams have managed to avert or contain outbreaks of acute jaundice syndrome, measles, typhoid fever, polio, bloody and acute watery diarrhoea, hepatitis A and brucellosis, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives.

Thanks to the outstanding support of its donors, WHO and its partners have ensured that millions of Syrians received essential health care in 2013. With continuing donor support, we can do more, and do it better. Through targeted public health interventions designed to ensure equitable access by all segments of the population, WHO is serving the Syrian people in both the short and the long term.

Elizabeth Hoff
WHO Country Representative a.i.
Syrian Arab Republic