Hello, my name is Ahed Festuk.
I'm from Aleppo. This is my story.
From 2011, I organized and participated in peaceful demonstrations in Syria. As an activist, I demonstrated for political freedoms like freedom of speech and assembly, a free press, suffrage, and more.
Women were not immune to the systematic violence by the Syrian government. Since 2011, the government intelligence forces arbitrarily detained more than 20,000 women and girls. In the prisons, men and women were subjected to the same interrogation methods and suffered the same torture and abuse.
Despite these known risks, I took regularly took part in the demonstrations. At one demonstration, I was shot in the arm by regime forces. However, as an activist, I could not seek treatment at local hospitals without risking retaliation from the government's security apparatus that were imbedded in the healthcare system.
In 2012, I started to work at the Dar al-Shifa field hospital in Aleppo as a medic. My family fled to Turkey, but I chose to remain to work at the hospital.
The Syrian government bombed the hospital eight times between August and November 2012. The Syrian government news agency, SANA, claimed the hospital was a terrorist hideout. The final attack in November 2012 killed at least 15 people, including four members of the volunteer medical staff.
The hospital's senior doctor, Dr. Osman al-Haj Osman, said that the reason the Syrian government forces aimed for the hospital is that “when you kill one doctor, it is better than killing 1,000 fighters.”
Together, with the doctors and other volunteer medical staff, we treated on average between 100 to 150 patients per day. Roughly 80 per cent of the hospital patients were civilians, injured by government forces during the daily attacks. The other patients included Free Syrian Army soldiers, and, more rarely, Syrian Army soldiers.
The hospital operated without adequate medical staff in specialized fields, like surgery. The staff provided life-saving emergency medical care, but because the hospital was under-staffed and in an unsafe area, patients were transferred out, often by taxi, to hospitals in the countryside or in government areas.
"I had the ability to help people, to help injured people at that time. When duty calls you to help an injured person, you stop thinking about yourself, and you get used to seeing the blood."
The story of Dar al-Shifa hospital in Aleppo was not unique. The Syrian government weaponized healthcare, systematically targeting hospitals and killing medical staff as their war strategy.
Through the end of 2017, Syrian government forces killed almost 900 medical personnel and attacked healthcare facilities almost 500 times, according to Physicians for Human Rights, an organization that documents attacks on medical in war zones.
In 2013, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, which monitors human rights in Syria, concluded in its report that “the denial of medical care is a distinct and chilling reality of the war in Syria.” The panel said pro-government forces carried out such attacks as a matter of policy.
Thousands of physicians once worked in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city before the war, but the attacks resulted in an exodus of 95 per cent of them to neighbor countries and abroad. In Syria, there are two doctors and four nurses and midwives for every ten thousand people, while the global average is thirteen doctors and twenty-eight nurses.
Civilians, like myself at Dar al-Shifa hospital, took the place medical professionals in Syria.
Seven years of war devastated most of Syria’s hospitals, along with the healthcare system. Despite this, doctors and Syrian N.G.O.s built a network of underground hospitals throughout country to continue giving care. They were driven underground because attacks on hospitals became routine.
Hospitals adopted complex code-name systems to shield their coordinates. Some medical staff moved entire hospitals underground into basements and caves to keep them safe from airstrikes. Other aboveground hospitals added layers of fortifications, emptying floors at the top of the building to absorb attacks. They barricaded windows with sandbags and erected concrete fortifications around the perimeter of facilitates to protect from bombs.
But the problems for hospitals did not stop at medical staffing and security. Access to medical supplies, like consumables, medicines, and equipment, inhibited hospitals to provide care. Moreover, some hospitals resorted to crowdfunding in order to continue running.
Now, I work at the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees. We have delivered more than a $137 million of relief supplies into hard-to-reach areas inside Syria and refugee camps along the border.
MFA and its partners have developed a broad network of organizations that donate the relief supplies that fill each container. The network includes Christians, Jews, Muslims and organizations that range from long-established relief organizations to local volunteer groups with access to needed supplies.
The supplies include food, clothing, medicines, medical supplies and equipment – and we’ve even shipped four ambulances.
$119 Million in Medicines
and Medical Supplies
Including antibiotics, bandages, wheelchairs, ultrasound machines, and ambulances.
$260,00 in Food
Including flours, grains, preserves, canned foods, and infant formula.
$1 Million in Clothing & Personal Care Items
Including winter clothing, shirts, shoes, soap, menstraul products, and diapers.
We support hospitals to provide better care and
help rebuild the healthcare infrastructure in Syria.
The conflict has destroyed the healthcare system in Syria. The impact of destruction continues, with many hospitals and clinics unable to provide anything but the most basic care to people with injuries and illnesses.
MFA and its partners work to supply hospitals in southern Syria with medicines, medical equipment and supplies. These supplies support makeshift field hospitals and mobile clinics.
The medical supplies include basic, life-saving medicines that ER nurses administer to patients needing emergency care, like antibiotics and local anesthetics. Other medicines from range from pain relievers and antidepressants, to blood pressure and heart medications.
MFA's unique Fund A Container program allows indiviudal and groups to pay the cost of shipping a container of life-saving humanitarian aid to those in need in Syria and track its progress from packing to its arrival in Syria.
From identifying the relief supplies, to packing boxes, arranging ocean freight, and delivering to places of need, the logistics of sending humanitarian aid to Syria is a complex process.
For just $6,500, you can help MFA and its partners pay for the shipment of a container of relief supplies to Syria.
Your container will have a tremendous impact. MFA's containers of relief have had an average value from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in food, clothing, medicines, medical supplies, and medical equipment – far beyond your donation of $5,500 to help cover shipping expenses.
MFA has been able to do this vital work thanks to donor support.
MFA has been able to do this vital work thanks to donor support.
MFA facilitates domestic and international shipping for timely and secure delivery of aid to Syria.
Syrian NGOs distribute the relief supplies to those in need.
Right now, MFA's work is focusing on the areas of Idlib and Aleppo. This area has a population of an estimated 4 million people, many of whom have been displaced from other parts of Syria.