Nuncio in Damascus: “More people in Syria die from lack of medical assistance than from bombs”

International organizations are launching the Open Hospitals initiative to offer free health services.

For another year, the month of March marks a sad anniversary. It’s now been seven years of war in Syria, a conflict with too many groups involved and whose consequences have been paid and continue to be paid by the same people – women and children.

With no solution in sight, and in light of the constant suffering of thousands of innocent people, the Church has asked itself this question.

CARD. GUALTIERO BASSETI
President, Italian Episcopal Conference
“Faced with this scenario, I’ve wondered many times, ‘What can the Church do to defend the precious asset and fragility of peace and to protect human dignity?”

The response launched by the Italian Episcopal Conference, the AVSI Foundation and other organizations is the offering of free treatment to 40,000 patients for three years. Thanks to the Open Hospitals initiative, two hospitals in Damascus and one in Aleppo will benefit from this aid. It’s a ray of hope for thousands wounded by war and many others who, facing shortages resulting from the conflict, must make drastic decisions like choosing between paying a doctor or eating.

GIAMPAOLO SILVESTRI
Secretary, AVSI Foundation
“Today, nearly 80 percent of the Syrian population lives in conditions of poverty. There are some 11 million without access to health services, 40 percent of whom are children. Nearly half of the public hospitals have been destroyed. Therefore, there’s a huge need for free, accessible medical assistance for all.”

CARD. MARIO ZENARI
Nuncio in Damascus
“There are an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 dead, but it’s been proven that many more people die due to a lack of medical treatment than those who die from bombings.”

The war in Syria has already joined the group of conflicts forgotten by humanity, even though its population continues going through hell. That’s how Cardinal Zenari, nuncio in Damascus for the last nine years, has frequently described the situation in the tormented country.

CARD. MARIO ZENARI
Nuncio in Damascus
“To me, Syria is like the poor man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was attacked by thieves. It’s not my place to say who the thieves are. The international community can call them whoever it wants. They’re thieves who have assaulted Syria, massacred it, hit and left it by the side of the road. This is the image of Syria after seven years of war. There are good samaritans, like humanitarian organizations or churches, but many times the good samaritans are the target or fall victim to stray bullets or are even the focus.

According to recent figures from the World Health Organization, more than half of the 111 public hospitals in Syria no longer function. Nor do half of the 1806 health centers. The country has also lost most of its health professionals. There is still much to do before obtaining a long-awaited peace. In the meantime, the challenge is helping one survive in this inferno.