Télécoms Sans Frontières supports UOSSM’s (Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations) medical staff in their daily work with the populations of northwestern Syria, via satellite connections. 10 primary health centers, hospitals or coordination centers benefit from this connectivity. During 2020, more than 260,000 patients benefited from a consultation in these centers.
At the beginning of 2020, most countries were starting to take the first health measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this same period, the North-West of Syria experienced several episodes of bombardment and intense fighting; since then, although military operations have been less marked, the 4.2 million people living in this area have suffered from continuous difficult living conditions, made worse by the pandemic. Of these, 2.7M are internally displaced, and 1.5M of them live in one of the 1160 refugee camps in the region.
For medical personnel like Alaa Ali, field agent for mental and psycho-social health (MHPSS), the availability of the connection is essential: “Communications are very useful in our daily work, and especially in the last period... Indeed, we had to find ways to avoid overcrowded waiting rooms, and to offer remote services. When we turned to work on decreasing the overcrowding on services and to try to deliver on-line services. For example, the help-line activities which provides online PSS consultations”. In fact, many Syrians suffer from psychological disorders, consequences of the traumas suffered during the conflict which has been ongoing for almost 10 years; this assistance is therefore essential for their health. These calls are mainly made via WhatsApp thanks to TSF’s connection. Indeed, the mobile network is not available everywhere, but Wi-Fi access points are accessible in most camps and villages. These remote services avoid the concentration of patients at the MHPSS hospital located in Sarmada (near the Turkish border), while allowing them to access the care they need.
With a similar objective, other services have been put in place to maintain access to medical care while reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19. This is what Hani Bakhouri, project manager for primary health centers, explains: “Internet plays a major role in all humanitarian contexts. Lately, one of the highlighted uses was the pre-appointment for health services [via WhatsApp], which has decreased the overcrowding in health facilities.."
During 2020, more than 3 TB were exchanged on TSF's medical connections in Syria. These 3 TB did not stop the war, nor cure the sick; yet, we know that these 3 TB have carried the voices of these people in psychological distress, to be listened to and receive the advice they so badly need; they have made it possible to strengthen protection against COVID-19, while maintaining access to care for families, children, who live in terrible conditions, and fight against the cold, floods ... And above all, fight to survive this war which overtakes them, and crushes their life unjustly.