Providing medical care in war-torn countries where there is no NHS

As the UK celebrates 70 years of the NHS, Open Doors partners are providing vital medical aid for thousands of sick people in Syria, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access the medical care they need.

One of Open Doors’ local partners is the Greek Orthodox church in Aleppo, which runs a small pharmacy and medical centre.

“Men can live without food but not without their medicine,” said Elias, who organises the relief efforts of the church. “We’re open daily at this place. We have doctors checking the people. When needed, we also finance the needed treatments and even surgeries in hospital.” Elias also organises food distribution to 1,700 families, giving out items such as spaghetti, rice, cheese, tea, coffee, nappies and baby formula.

Barkev is a volunteer who helps distribute medicines to people in Aleppo. “People who need medicine can come to us,” he said. “In many cases, those coming for medicine are people with chronic diseases. They need to bring their prescriptions to us and then we try to buy from pharmacies the medicine they need.”

Many of those who remain in Syria are still there precisely because they need medical care – they are too old or unwell to travel elsewhere and escape the war. The war makes it difficult to get medicines and other essentials into the country, therefore, costs have sky-rocketed. Prices are now nine or ten times higher than they were before the war began seven years ago, making medical care completely unaffordable for most Syrians.

Samer* has a job, but still struggles to support his family. “My salary is too low,” Samer said. “I have a salary of about 60 US dollars a month. Half of it goes to the home rent. My family needs between 200 and 300 dollars per month. If one of us gets sick, we can’t afford to go to a doctor or buy medicine.”

As well as providing vital medical support, pharmacies set up by Open Doors partners are also providing desperately needed jobs. Priest Tahan was able to start two pharmacies in Aleppo, creating jobs for several young pharmacists. “The people need jobs to be no longer dependent on food packages and other help,” he said.

Elay Tufenkjy is one of the pharmacists. “This is a very good opportunity for me,” she said. “It’s very good to have a job and an income now.”

Syria is number 15 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Church leaders, particularly, are targeted for abduction. Government authorities restrict the activities of evangelical Christians and converts to prevent instability. Christians from a Muslim background face pressure from their families to recant, as their conversion brings shame on the family. Open Doors partners with the local church to care for and provide relief aid to tens of thousands of displaced Christians in Syria, as well as providing rehab programmes and trauma counselling.

*name changed for security reasons

Erin James

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