The lack of vaccination programs in rebel-held southern Syrian provinces makes the area ripe for an epidemic.
Seeking to combat its reputation as uninvolved in Syria’s internal affairs, the opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Coalition has trained a group of doctors, nurses, and technicians in administering immunizations in south Daraa.
“This course ultimately aims to create a team to cover any absence of medical infrastructure should the regime fall, but for now, they will cover areas that cannot be reached by the Ministry of Health,” Doctor Khalid Amyan, the director of health in Daraa for the opposition’s ministry of health, tells Syria Direct’s Ahmad Katlish.
The training comes ahead of a three-month immunization campaign, scheduled to begin in October, that aims to reach over 110,000 children, from newborns to five-year-olds, in rebel-controlled Daraa and Quneitra.
Q: In the past, there were several fatalities because of vaccinations during previous opposition-run vaccination campaigns in northern Syria. How have you regained people’s trust?
The instances of fatalities in the north were the result of technical mistakes and had no relation to the vaccinations or their quality.
This time, we created a “community engine” that will carry out an awareness campaign ahead of the vaccination campaign in mosques and schools, as well as though trusted sources and well-known personalities in the community. This will give people an impression of sincerity and reinforce their trust.
Q: Could you describe the training course? What are the subsequent plans for the participants after the training course is over?
This course was set up to train a group of 10 doctors as well as a number of nurses and technicians to administer immunizations and to prepare them to train other personnel to carry out vaccinations in under-served areas.
This course ultimately aims to create a team to cover any absence of medical infrastructure should the regime fall, but for now, they will cover areas that cannot be reached by the [opposition’s] Ministry of Health.
Q: Why is the interim government only now doing a vaccination campaign in southern Syria, given that there were previously numerous vaccination campaigns in the north?
There weren’t any reports from southern Syria concerning the specific health situation regarding vaccinations, and the government’s being in Gaziantep [in Turkey] led to a disproportionate interest in the northern provinces.
However, a government office was opened in Jordan a year and four months ago, and since then we have worked to create a database through which we can recreate a similar vaccination program [in the south].