Many Syrians have been unable to cover the the cost of medical treatment since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, and routinely travel to distant clinics to receive care. In one rebel-held province, local officials have opened 15 new medical centers to lessen travel times for the sick and expand care to as many people as possible.
The Idlib Health Directorate established 15 clinics in Idlib province three months ago in collaboration with international medical organizations, Dr. Anes al-Adgheem, head of the Health Centers Division of the directorate, told the Syrian Voice.
“These centers provide various types of services, including family planning and prenatal care, treatment for chronic illnesses, dental care, internal medicine, and cardiology through specialized clinics,” he said.
The directorate distributed these health centers across the province so that the largest number of residents possible could benefit from their services. It established each center close to villages that were not receiving sufficient coverage, said Dr. Anes.
“After each center was established, personnel undertook a routine vaccination campaign, the first in Idlib” since the beginning of the Syrian war.
The availability of medical care close to villages lightens the physical and financial burdens of travel. In the past, some centers were so far away that residents decided to forgo treatment entirely, including vaccinations for their children.
The last routine vaccination campaign for children in northern Syria occurred last May, after residents in rebel-held areas were deprived of vaccines for four years.
“I traveled more than three times to border regions to get a vaccination for my three-month-old child,” Mohammed al-Rayyes, a resident of the southern Idlib countryside, said in an interview with Umayya Press.
“After vaccinations became available in my area, I’ve saved a lot of time and money. This is to say nothing of the other medical services, most importantly X-rays and dentistry, because the cost of dentistry in private clinics is very high,” he added.
Abu Abdu is a nurse at a the Kafr Uweid Health Center. In an interview with the Syrian Voice, he said that the new Idlib clinics need additional aid, especially medicine to treat chronic diseases.
He also said that medical organizations should try to establish centers specialized in certain illnesses, like chemotherapy, so cancer patients stop having to travel long distances for treatment.
The recently established health centers in Idlib provide both free care and treatment for a nominal fee. What they make in fees they put towards buying necessary materials to continue operating, nurse Abu Abdu told the Syrian Voice.
Before these centers were set up, Idlib province lacked proper medical services. Most treatment took place in field hospitals, although they are designed to provide emergency first response. The medical situation went from bad to worse after a number of hospitals were knocked out of service by Russian or regime airstrikes.
Rebel-held areas in the province still lack treatment for dangerous diseases like cancer. Patients travel to Turkey for receive care, or to areas of regime control.