BY THE END OF 2015, THE HUMANITARIAN situation in Syria had significantly deteriorated, and no political solution was in sight. Civilians continued to bear the brunt of the crisis. Parties to the conflict continued to impose sieges and blockades. Civilians were unable to leave besieged areas, and aid agencies were unable to enter. Malnutrition rates increased, especially among children under five years of age. There were widespread attacks on health personnel and health care facilities. Around 25 000 people were wounded each month, many of them severely. Almost two thirds of the population had no access to safe water, increasing their risk of waterborne diseases. More than 1.2 million people were internally displaced during the course of the year. These numbers are staggering.
Against this backdrop, WHO continued its work to alleviate the health impact of the crisis and support the resilience of the Syrian people. Working from its hubs in Damascus, Amman and Gaziantep under the “Whole of Syria” approach endorsed in UN Security Council resolutions, WHO’s emergency health response aimed to reach Syrians in all parts of the country, including hard-to-reach and besieged areas.
Highlights of WHO’s humanitarian interventions in Syria in 2015
- 17.2 million medical treatments were delivered across Syria for patients with chronic diseases, communicable diseases, trauma injuries, primary and secondary care diseases.
- Health partners in northern Syria were provided with technical, financial and/or material support to conduct 1.7 million medical consultations and deliver nearly 25 000 babies. WHO donated surgical supplies to support around 2000 major surgical interventions in an underground trauma hospital.
- Almost 2.9 million children under five years of age were vaccinated against polio, and 1.6 million children were vaccinated against measles.
- The Disease Early Warning and Response System (EWARS), based in Damascus, was expanded from 650 sentinel sites in 2014 to 995 sentinel sites in 2015. WHO’s of ce in Gaziantep offers technical support to the Disease Early Warning and Response Network (EWARN) covering 517 sentinel sites in northern Syria. Together, these surveillance systems aim to cover all governorates and people in Syria.
- The Essential Medicines List for Syria for 2015 was updated in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Higher Education and other stakeholders.
- The status of all public hospitals and 97% of Syria’s 1783 public health care centres was assessed using WHO’s Health Resources Availability Mapping System (HeRAMS). This number includes 500 health care facilities in northern Syria that were assessed by WHO’s hub in Gaziantep.
- The Water Pollution Alert and Response System was introduced in Damascus and Rural Damascus.
- Nutrition surveillance services were introduced in 193 health centres in all governorates (except Ar- Raqqa, where access was not possible) to screen for malnutrition in children under five years of age.
- 34 mobile clinics were donated to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to support the provision of basic health care services for populations in hard- to-reach and besieged areas across Syria.
- More than 20 000 managers and health workers across the country were trained on health topics such as trauma management, first aid, primary health care (PHC), reproductive health, disease surveillance, and the management of noncommunicable diseases.