Single mobile medical clinic serves 15,000 displaced by Russian strikes, regime advances


February 1, 2016

The primary medical service provider for an estimated 15,000 internally displaced Syrians living in drafty tents across the south Idlib countryside is a mobile clinic run out of a single ambulance.

Six days a week, a medical team armed with an ambulance and an array of pharmaceuticals leaves a central pharmacy in Jarjanaz, just east of Marat a-Numan in the south Idlib countryside and heads to one of six area camps for internally displaced civilians, Doctor Aqba Dagheem, director of Syria for Relief and Development (SRD) in Idlib tells Syria Direct.

The clinic, which treats an average of 100 people per day, is a joint project by both the US-based SRD, a humanitarian organization based in Gaziantep, Turkey that has offices in Turkey and Jordan, and Onsur, the Turkish relief agency. 

The mobile clinic was born three months ago to address “the increasing severity of the displacement crisis” in southern Idlib, Dagheemtells Syria Direct’s Nisreen A-Nasser. Russian air strikes and regime advances are forcing thousands of people to flee their homes in northern Hama and southern Aleppo.

In crowded, remote camps lacking sanitation services, communicable diseases spread easily, the doctor says.

“There is a lot of pressure on this clinic.”

Q: What was the impetus for this project?

The idea for the mobile clinic was to be a fast response to the needs of the new people displaced by regime attacks in the southern Aleppo countryside and the Hama countryside.

[Hama province lies to the south and west of rebel-held Idlib province. Aleppo province is east of Idlib. Both Idlib and Aleppo provinces witnessed sizeable regime ground offensives supported by Russian airstrikes beginning last October.]

Those people were living in underserved camps far from health centers, so we launched the first project to cover these [south Idlib] camps and meet their needs.

Most importantly, there is preparation for a larger future project to expand mobile clinics to cover IDPs in other parts of Syria.

  Distributing medicine in the south Idlib countryside. Photos courtesy of Dr. Aqba Dagheem.

Q: How and where are patients treated?

There is an ambulance with medical personnel that is stocked with medical supplies needed for examination and treatment. The clinic is staffed by a general practitioner, two nurses, and two people to distribute medicine.

Every day the vehicle goes to a different camp at a set time to provide medical services to the displaced [in six locations]. They are treated inside the ambulance if need be, but most of the time in one of the camp’s tents. The medical personnel also visit the sick in their own tents if moving them is difficult.

Q: What kind of cases do you treat?

We’ve noticed many infectious diseases due to people intermingling. There are respiratory ailments and skin diseases such as scabies and lice, as well as follow-ups for chronic illnesses.

Q: Are the medicines needed for treatment available?

Yes, they are available [from SDR]. We try to secure as much as possible, but there are sometimes shortages due to the high pressure from the patients and the need to provide them with medication due to their distance from medical clinics.

[Ed.: SRD and Onsur provide medication as well as salaries for the clinic’s personnel, which is stored at a central pharmacy in Jarjanaz, a town just east of Maarat a-Numan in the south Idlib countryside.]

There is a lot of pressure on the clinic, which treats around 100 people a day. There is huge need and wide geographic areas. That is why we are planning to launch two additional, specialized clinics. 

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