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Situation of Syria’s Healthcare Sector

Syria Times conducted an interview with the Ministry Ministry of Health’s Assistant Director of Planning and International Cooperation Wiam Saker.

Q. What are the numbers of the Ministry of Health’s hospitals, doctors, and technical workers in Syria today? has this changed since before 2011?

A. Today, the Ministry of Health runs 98 hospitals and commissions ‘independent hospitals’ in addition to 2 hospitals that are going to be opened, Al-Shahba’ Hospital in Sweida Governorate and the second hospital is the General Organization of the Children's Hospital in Tartous governorate which was officially opened on September 21st  by the Syrian Prime Minister Eng. Emad Khamis.

The Ministry also runs 1864 Health Centers in the country including the dialysis, thalassemia and tuberculosis centers.

The numbers of doctors who are working for the Ministry of Health 7052.In 2019. In 2011 there were 9000 doctors. The technical workers in 2018 were about 6500, in 2011three are more than 10.000 workers.

There are doctors and workers who have retired and other left the country. The Ministry works hardly to make up the shortfall in doctors, nurses and workers.

Q. Is the government taking steps to address the rise in mental illness and psychological problems which have resulted from the war and terrorism?

A.The Ministry of Health runs two mental hospitals, the Ibin Khaldun Hospital in Aleppo and Avincenna in Douma, 20km northeast Damascus city in addition to the National Observatory for Youth Care in Damascus city which is a hospital for addiction treatment for all types of drugs.

The numbers of mental and psychological patients have increased in Syria because of the war and terrorism, in 2018 there were 191165 patients while their numbers in 2010 was 4895 patients.

Q.How much progress has been made in repairing health infrastructure in areas controlled by the Syrian government, such Eastern Ghouta and Deir Ezzour?

A.Since 2011, the Ministry of Health’s damages reached approximately 444 billion Syrian Pound.

After a week of the Syrian Arab Army’s seizure of Eastern Ghouta, the Ministry of Health opened 2 healthcare centers.  Two weeks later, it opened 7 healthcare centers. The Ministry works to open 5 hospitals in Eastern Ghouta, in Douma, Harasta, Kafar Battna, and Mleha towns. For example, the Hospital of Douma is completely demolished and needs rebuilding from A to Z.

The Ministry runs the Al-Assad Hospital, the Children Hospital and the Maternity Hospital in the city of Deir Ezzour the Ministry opened health centers in al-Mayadine and Albu Kamal.

Are there specific governorates of the country that have in more need than others for healthcare services? 

The Syrian war forced thousands of Syrian families to leave their hometowns and live in new cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Lattakia.

Many of families were displaced form Idlib to Lattakia city. They put, and still put, big pressures on the Lattakia city’s Cardiac Surgery Center, Maternity Hospital and Children Hospital. The doctors, nurses and technical workers work hard to meet their needs.

The displaced families in Homs put pressures on the Al-Basil Health Center which is presenting good health care services as a small hospital.

Q. What are the biggest challenges that she personally has to deal with in his work--sanctions, budget shortages, staff shortages...?

A. The American and European unfair sanctions on Syrian badly affected the Syrian health sector. The banking and money transaction with America and Europe became very hard. For that reason, the Ministry of Health moved towards the east to import medical equipment and supplies and pharmaceutical products from India, Iran, Russia, Belorussia in addition to Cuba and Venezuela.

The Ministry also faced problems in getting spare parts for the malfunctioning European-made medical equipment.

Despite these challenges, the Ministry of Health was able to successfully overcome these sanctions and obstacles in several ways and get spare parts, new medical equipment and supplies and pharmaceutical products for all the Ministry’s hospitals and health care centers.

The Ministry keeps getting cancer, kidney failure, tuberculosis, dialysis pharmaceuticals during the hardest wartime.

The Ministry uses the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s Hospital in Damascus to give the chemo doses for cancer patients.

Q. How do you view the SARC and other Syrian NGO’s role in supporting the public health sector? 

A. The Ministry of Health encouraged cooperation with Syrian NGOs and charities working in the healthcare sector.

For a year and half, the Syrian NGOs and charities, which are working in the healthcare services, worked under the umbrella of Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) to organize their action and activities.

The Ministry cooperated with Syria Trust and Syrian Organization for Person Disabilities -Amal to help the Syrian Arab Army’s disable and wounded soldiers.

The Ministry cooperates with NGOs such as:  ICRC, International Medical Corps (IMC), Dorcas Relief and Development, Medair, Première Urgence Internationale,

Aga Khan Development Network, Spain Action Against Hunger, Italian Armadale, and others.

How do you view the role of the UN agencies (WHO, UNICEF) in cooperating with the Ministry of Helath?

The Ministry of Health has good cooperation ties with the UN agencies in Syria. The Ministry cooperates with these agencies to rebuild the demolished hospitals and equip them with the medical equipment and supplies.

The Ministry coordinates with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

These UN agencies offer pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies for the Ministry of Health’s hospitals, centers and clinics.


Interviewed by: Obaida al-Mohammad, Inas Abdulkareem

Photos by: Obaida al-Mohammad