WHO and health partners provide vital care to displaced people in northern Syria

Syria Immunization Group

In a tent camp in Jarablus, northern Syria, WHO partners vaccinate children who were evacuated with their families from besieged towns.

Responding to evacuations and a growing number of displaced people in northern Syria, WHO and its health partners are providing life-saving medical care to thousands of families.

In spring 2017, following discussions between the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and other groups, families from formerly besieged areas of the country were evacuated to areas further north.

“Families continue to be on the move as a result of the conflict,” says Dr Annette Heinzelmann, Emergency Coordinator for WHO’s Gaziantep field office in southeastern Turkey. “We’re making sure our partners are prepared with what they need to provide good medical care.”

Working with partners to deliver essential health services

When people arrive at tent camps or in new areas, many are in need of basic primary care. Children who have lived in besieged areas have often missed out on vaccinations for years.

WHO’s Gaziantep office coordinates the health cluster for northern Syria, a group of more than 45 medical organizations operating in the northwest part of the country. When families arrive in the northwest, “we ensure that they have access to health services, including essential drugs and medical supplies, at their destination,” says Dr Jamshed Tanoli, Health Cluster Coordinator with WHO in Gaziantep.

When families were evacuated from the besieged neighbourhood of Al-Wa’er in the spring of 2017, WHO health partners mobilized ambulances to meet them and transport critical cases to the proper health facilities. Many al-Wa’er families ultimately arrived at a tent camp in the town of Jarablus or in the area of Idleb. There, immunization teams vaccinated children against polio, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

In addition to primary care, trauma care and vaccinations, WHO health cluster partners address issues that often appear in populations on the move or in camps for displaced people. These include diseases such as scabies and leishmaniasis, a disease carried by sandflies, and mental health issues.

Preparing for an influx of people from ar-Raqqa

In early June, as military action in the city of ar-Raqqa escalated, the WHO Gaziantep office began working with cluster partners to prepare for an influx of people who may head northwest. Partners will revitalize health facilities or provide mobile clinics, pre-position health supplies in public and private hospitals, and provide additional staff in anticipation of the influx.

“In the seventh year of this terrible conflict, it is so important that WHO, hand in hand with our partners, continues providing health care for people who have left their homes,” said Dr Heinzelmann.