SAMS Alarmed by Surge in COVID-19 Cases in Syria:
A Message from SAMS President on Behalf of Board of Directors
Dear SAMS Community,
Syria is currently facing a growing number of interrelated crises. Nearly a decade of conflict has displaced over 5.6 million Syrians to neighboring countries, while 6.6 million are internally displaced. The country’s economy, healthcare system, and education systems have all been decimated by years of conflict. Syrians everywhere face staggering mental health effects from loss, trauma, and fear, and often lack the support they would normally receive from their communities.
Exacerbating the situation is an unprecedented economic crisis that has further impoverished a nation already struggling with limited livelihood opportunities and growing food insecurity. Nearly 80% of Syrians live in poverty, struggling to access food, shelter, and healthcare.
Now, Syrians face another existential threat: a global pandemic in a country where healthcare facilities have been devastated by almost a decade of conflict and are unable to meet existing medical needs. Syria is currently experiencing an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases that the already-fragile healthcare system is not prepared to handle. In the event of a major outbreak in Syria, millions of lives could be lost.
At SAMS, we are deeply concerned by the widespread transmission of COVID-19 across Syria, where testing is limited and medical facilities face an overwhelming, yet under-reported coronavirus crisis. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced individuals live in crowded conditions ripe for the spread of the virus.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, SAMS has worked in collaboration with public health experts and NGOs to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect our medical personnel and patients in northwest Syria. In northwest Syria, where SAMS operations are focused, we have established three COVID-19 care centers to treat and isolate suspected COVID-19 cases, implemented preventive measures in all 40 of our medical facilities in the area, procured PPE for our staff of more than 2,000 people, and conducted ongoing training- both in-person and virtual- to help mitigate the spread of the virus and protect against the threat it poses.
However, medical workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight in other parts of the country remain vulnerable, and are often unable to receive adequate support due to restrictions imposed by various authorities.
We know that the virus threatens all of Syria, not only the northwest. Recognizing this, in areas where SAMS does not currently operate, we have been providing ongoing virtual training to frontline medical workers and ICU doctors across Syria, creating online resources in Arabic.
We are here today to reiterate our commitment to saving and improving lives, regardless of political or religious affiliation.
SAMS members, the majority of whom are Syrian-American medical professionals, are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic here in the U.S. We have an obligation to support our peers in Syria who are also fighting this virus, often without proper PPE, training, or testing capacity. We want to work with partners to ensure that brave medical workers throughout all of Syria, not only in the northwest, receive the support they need in the face of this deadly pandemic.
We must always remember our shared humanity, and in difficult times such as these, we must come together to support one another. On behalf of our board of directors, SAMS remains determined to provide dignified, quality care to the most vulnerable, and to support medical workers who have proven time and time again that they are the true heroes in times of unfathomable challenges.
Mufaddal Hamadeh, MD