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Syria: Mobile clinics bring hope to villages in southern Aleppo

05 Mar 2020


Siblings Rahaf, 11, and Abdulrazak, 2, receive essential health-care services in southern rural Aleppo, Syria. The OCHA-managed Syria Humanitarian Fund supports partners to deliver essential aid across the country, including mobile medical clinics. Credit: UNICEF/Chnkdji 

On a recent Thursday in Tall Ed-daman, in Syria’s southern Aleppo Governorate, a small group gathered, waiting in the cold winter morning. There were young mothers, clutching babies wrapped in blankets to ward off the bitter chill, as well as men accompanying elderly parents and dozens of playful young children.

These local families were here for one reason: Every Thursday, the local mobile medical clinic visits Tall Ed-daman – a group of 44 villages south of Aleppo city – providing essential health services to vulnerable people who might not otherwise be able to access basic health care.

The mobile clinic, operated by Al-Ber and Al-Ihsan Charity Society, two local non-governmental organizations, is funded under a US$200,000 grant from the Syria Humanitarian Fund. It is run by a team of three doctors and three nurses, and supports about 12,000 people with a range of primary medical services.

Hajjah, a local resident, explains the difference the clinic has made in her community. “It’s so much easier for us now,” she says. “In the past, we had to travel 50 km just to see a doctor.”

Across Aleppo Governorate, an estimated 2.6 million people need better access to health care. In Tall Ed-daman, many families were forced to flee when hostilities broke out in 2013. More than 40,000 people still live in the region. Today, 5 per cent of the local population is internally displaced from neighbouring rural areas, many of whom were displaced multiple times.

Families in southern rural Aleppo visit a mobile clinic for essential health-care services. Credit: UNICEF/Chnkdji 

Crises and displacement have taken an immeasurable toll on these families, and on the villages. Infrastructure has been damaged, and public services such as health and education facilities, and qualified personnel to staff them, are insufficient. There are limited livelihood opportunities for parents to afford even the basics for their families.

Until the mobile medical clinic began operating, the closest health services for Tall Ed-daman families were in Aleppo city, nearly an hour away by car. As part of a community still in recovery, most families have not been able to afford the travel, let alone pay for medicines or private care.

“There is no medicine for me in my village,” says 11-year-old Koutiba, who has come to the clinic with his family. “But these doctors who visit us always have it, and it makes my allergy go away.”

Eleven-year-old Koutiba has come with his family to the clinic in southern rural Aleppo supported by the Syria Humanitarian Fund. Credit: UNICEF/Chnkdji 

One of the clinic’s staff, Dr. Rahaf, a paediatrician from Aleppo, said that many in the community suffer from health issues that can be routinely addressed through the weekly clinic visits. “Anaemia and iron deficiency are widespread among children here, mainly due to poverty,” she says.

Basic health care is an important start, says Dr. Rahaf, adding that there is clearly a need for expanded services. She notes that many of the cases need more specialized doctors, further examination or diagnosis, but families cannot afford the cost of transport.

For the time being, the mobile clinic provides free health care – including gynaecology, internal and paediatric services in addition to echography, ECG, X-ray and laboratory analysis. The team also provides psychological support, including individual and group counselling sessions, to approximately 120 to 160 people a day who would otherwise go without such services. 

“These mobile health clinics are important not just because they provide free essential health care to vulnerable families, but also because they give local families that have gone through incredibly difficult times a glimpse of hope for a better future,” says Mohamad Jasser, head of the OCHA office in Aleppo.