SYRIA: Damascus Hospital operated by Salesian Sisters supported by “Open Hospital” project
(MissionNewswire) An Italian hospital in Damascus, which was founded in 1913 and is run by the Salesian Sisters, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, is currently being supported by the “Open Hospitals” project. According to a recent Crux article, The Syrian “Open Hospitals” project was launched by the AVSI Foundation in 2016 in partnership with the Gemelli Foundation and the pontifical charity branch, “Cor Unum,” which is overseen by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development. The AVSI Foundation is a nonprofit that seeks to promote development and support humanitarian aid projects throughout the world.
The “Open Hospitals” project provides medical care for those living in poverty and is currently supporting the activities of three Catholic nonprofit hospitals in Syria. The hospital, run by the Salesian Sisters, has 55 beds and employs 26 physicians and 54 nurses. According to the article, the St. Louis Hospital in Aleppo, managed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, and a French hospital in Damascus, managed by the Company of Daughters of St Vincent de Paul, are also supported. The three Catholic hospitals offer free medical care to the poor no matter their religious affiliation, allowing some 400 impoverished people a week to receive care.
The Crux article notes that the project, which will run from 2017-2020, aims to “offer the poorest populations in Aleppo and Damascus with quality medical care, to establish a social office dedicated to evaluating patients’ financial needs, to upgrade hospitals with modern, up-to-date equipment and to offer training to medical, administrative and managerial staff.”
Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, more than 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, have suffered from a dire humanitarian crisis, with the bulk of the population lacking basic food and supplies, according to the Crux article. Further, the U.N has indicated some 11.5 million people, 40 percent of whom are children, lack proper medical care, as hospitals have been a consistent target in the war. This has prompted close to two-thirds of Syria’s medical staff to flee the country.
According to Crux, many healthcare institutions still in operation in Syria are forced to operate beyond their means. They lack supplies, infrastructure and trained medical staff, making it difficult to provide proper patient care.
To date, three offices have been established to evaluate treatment requests and identify those most in need, according to Crux. The article indicates more than 15,700 patients have been accepted and treated free of charge. Hospitals have received updated equipment and a new IT system has been installed for future training. Crux notes that as of December 2018, 5,457 patients have been cared for at the French hospital in Damascus, 7,065 at the Italian hospital in Damascus and 3,236 at the Aleppo hospital, most of whom are between the ages of 50 and 70.
Recently, the Hungarian government has announced that it will provide nearly $1.7 million to the project, according to the Crux article. Hungarian Ambassador to the Holy See, Eduard Habsburg, told Crux he’s happy with the initiative because it, “finally makes much more visible what Hungary has been doing for years behind the scenes. Hungary has been doing this all the time.”
Hungary is the first public donor to support the project through its “Hungary Helps” humanitarian assistance program. According to Crux, Habsburg said the Hungarian government “took this call with lots of joy.” He also noted that for him, one of the most important aspects of the project is that while the bulk of hospital staff are Christian, Muslims will be the primary beneficiaries of their support, “so it is a project that will help peace in the region between different religions.”
Despite ongoing conflict and instability, Salesian missionaries have continued their work with youth in Syria. Over the course of the last eight years since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, Salesian missionaries have operated three centers in Kafroun and the particularly high conflict areas of Aleppo and Damascus. Each of the centers is staffed by three Salesian priests and a deacon.
The centers have been in operation since well before the start of the war providing educational classes, meeting space and social development and sporting activities for youth and their families. The centers also offer trauma counseling, emergency shelter, nutritious meals and medical referrals to those in need.
Photo: iStock/Getty Images
Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.