Syria: A heartbreaking milestone, but recovery continues
Updated: Mar 29, 2021
This week marks 10 years of conflict in Syria, which has created an unprecedented humanitarian disaster leaving millions of civilians displaced within the country as well as around the Middle East and Europe.
The war has ravaged Syria's economy, destroyed much of its infrastructure and devastated its medical facilities - especially in its northwest region - leaving thousands who need critical care to suffer and die even as the fighting ebbs.
But Field Ready's team has been working to help support Syrians working in healthcare and search and rescue and help rebuild the country's healthcare system for the last four years. And our progress is accelerating even as the conflict drags on.
Several years ago, Field Ready Technical Lead Usamah Shamah developed and made a rescue airbag, modeled after similar expensive airbags that were extremely difficult to get in Syria. The team distributed the airbags to emergency personnel; the bags are placed under debris in collapsed buildings and inflated to rescue anyone trapped underneath. The airbags – which can lift up to 5 tons and cost just 1/10th as much as an all-new imported product unavailable in Syria – have since saved more than 60 trapped Syrian civilians and protected hundreds of rescue workers. Their design has been shared globally and used in other locations to save lives.
Shamah and his team also helped build, strengthen and modify a firefighting robot so it can better assist human firefighters as they battle raging blazes too large and too hot for them to approach without injury. Syrian firefighters are currently training with the robot and hope to begin using it soon.
Our efforts to help rebuild the healthcare system in northwest Syria are also gaining momentum. More Syrians currently die because of a lack of healthcare facilities and equipment than all those killed during the years of violence. A World Bank 2017 Damage Assessment for Syria estimated that 80% of health facilities in northwest Syria are severely damaged or completely destroyed. Healthcare centers' repair and reconstruction is estimated to cost between $250 million and $312 million, not including medicine, supplies and equipment .
Medical staff in Syria often work in appalling conditions in structures (including caves) with no electricity, clean water or waste management, and face severe personnel shortages - many staff have been displaced, wounded or killed as a result of the conflict.
To help the already overworked medical staff, our team surveyed more than 40 hospitals and medical centers to learn what they needed most to help them save more lives. With input from doctors, nurses and medical technicians, team members began collecting and repairing, rebuilding and replacing critically needed medical devices using digital design, 3D printers and their own skill.
Despite the pandemic, the team has pressed on. Since late last year, Field Ready has repaired 110 medical devices and pieces of equipment in the region including:
More than 13,000 people have been helped as a result, healthcare workers reported.
Healthcare facilities are eager to participate in the program, which is supported by the Creating Hope in Conflict award. After 10 years of conflict “it’s obvious the amount of need – most of these hospitals have old or damaged devices, and they don’t have a budget to cover the (device) maintenance and serve the patients,” Shamah said.
But the team is dedicated to quick device repairs to get them back in use.
“Our engineers use modern technology to make those spare parts locally very quickly within days, and sometimes immediately, to help those facilities treat patients; we want to help the (medial personnel) stay as ready as possible. And when we know that the devices are working again, that’s like music in my ear – now we can help people.”
Although the conflict continues and we mourn what has been lost, our team will continue to look for new solutions to aid in Syria's recovery.
During the course of the health program, we plan to add 35 new devices and 200 replacement components to our catalog for open-source use. The team will then work with key partners to manufacture the devices and replacement parts locally, helping to grow long-term sustainability and expand the market for the products.