Health Care and Clean Water for Conflict-Affected Syrians

As the Syrian civil war stumbles through its seventh year, over 11 million people have been forced from their homes. With health and sanitation systems destroyed, polluted water, poor hygiene and reduced access to medical care, much of the country has become a breeding ground for infectious diseases. Displaced from their homes without clean water, health care or work to sustain them, many Syrians also face extreme malnutrition.

To reduce the burden of sickness, Relief International is working with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to provide medical supplies, health services and clean water to 20 health care facilities in Aleppo, Idleb and Hama. We help these facilities obtain medicines and equipment and cover the salaries of the health care professionals who run them.

In these regions, pregnant women often are forced to rely on high-priced midwifery services in neighboring towns. Our program creates safe and secure places to deliver locally. Additional training for health care workers gives women carrying high-risk pregnancies access to early screening for hypertension, anemia and sexually transmitted infections. Midwives are trained to raise awareness about the importance of post-partum consultations.

Relief International also works to detect and treat diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, which can be aggravated in an unstable environment. Health care facilities focus on these primary health care needs, rather than on trauma cases, to support the population’s long-term health. 

Part of addressing communicable diseases, especially diarrheal diseases, includes providing clean water and hygiene education. The lessons on hand-washing and clean food practices we provide help reduce the impact of water-borne diseases.

To further improve hygiene among the population we serve, RI rebuilds latrines and showers in the health facilities we support. We know that addressing water, sanitation and hygiene issues is the best way to boost the health of an entire community. We also rehabilitate water treatment plants in surrounding villages, ensuring that water quality and quantity meet international humanitarian standards. Overall, RI aims to help improve the hygiene capabilities of over 400,000 people in the region.

In order to ensure local participation and sustainability, RI works with pre-existing civil society systems, including governorate health directorates and local councils, to help Syrians obtain health care.

This program also includes a community health worker (CHW) training program. CHWs allow for a more integrated approach to early recognition of disease and hygiene awareness. Whether it is helping a pregnant woman recognize the signs of preeclampsia or encouraging better hand-washing practices, CHWs help improve the quality of care and refer people to health facilities when they are in need of treatment. The CHWs we recruit and train assist approximately 45,000 people per month.