Two humanitarian workers involved with relief efforts in civil-war torn Syria, have detailed some of the atrocities witness in the troubled Middle Eastern country. Both are in the South Africa as guests of the Gift of the Givers (GOTG), seeking not only to shed light on the current situation, but also appeal for more assistance in relief efforts to the millions displaced as a result of the war.
Dr Ahmed Ghandour, who serves as head of GOTG’s Ar Rahma Hospital in Darkoush, said that due to limited access to hospitals, as well as the facility being the best equipped in the region, Syrians were often coming from great distances to receive treatment at the centre. The hospital takes on an average of 350 patients a day, with all treatments and medication provided free of charge.
He sought to highlight the extent of injured and displaced Syrians, currently seeking treatment near the Turkish border.
“There are a lot of camps now within Syria. There is around 300 000 people hospitalized at the Turkish border in the camps. They are without any shelter, without any houses, and without any bread,” he said.
With the Middle East having been hit with one of the most severe snow storms in the regions recent history, he highlighted the difficulties faced by refugees, as well as those seeking to provide humanitarian assistance to them.
“You hear about the snow storms that took place throughout Syria and Lebanon, and you hear about the cases which died because they were frozen. You hear about some places which had severe blockages, and the people that died because of starvation,” stated Ghandour.
Despite the difficult working conditions for humanitarians, he said many were persevering to ensure the best possible care for those affected by the war. This was whilst the rest of the world continued to turn a blind eye towards the situation.
“You look at the terrible silence of the world. All the world is focusing on is terrorism, and they are forgetting the real civilian people (affected by these acts). A lot of the patients that come in, those that have hypertension or diabetes; they have never seen a doctor since one year,” he explained.
Ghandour also heaped praise on the work of GOTG, lauding the efforts of the NGO’s humanitarian efforts in the region. He stated that the work done by GOTG could equate to the work of five different relief organizations.
Retiree Saad din Saad has dedicated his time to assisting with relief efforts in Beirut, Lebanon, where Syrian refugees have flowed into the country in their masses. More than half of the Syria population has been displaced since war broke out in 2011, with roughly 2 million now seeking refuge in Lebanon.
“We are trying our best with the help of god, and we are managing to do something. However, we are always behind and we need to have more support, and more people on the ground,” he explained, further calling on South Africans to open their hearts, and donate towards relief efforts in the region.
With the political situation having virtually deteriorated within Syria, Saad said it was imperative that the people stuck to the basics of their Islamic beliefs. He said there was an urgent need for education, particularly amongst refugees, to try and teach them to return to the fundamentals of their religion.
“We have around 400 000 Syrian students in Lebanon; 50 000 of them only go to school. This is another challenge that we have to focus on, because if this young student does not go to school, after 1 or 2 years he will become a criminal,” he said, stressing the importance of education.
With Lebanon having very limited resources to provide this level of education, he reiterated calls for assistance from international organizations, urging them to take a proactive stance in the education of Syrian youth.
According to statistics by the UN, as of August 2014 more than 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced as a result of the war; a total likely to have increased dramatically. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)