Julie Francis from Doctors Without Borders Addresses the CAW Council

Port Elgin, ON

April 6, 2013

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Julie Francis from Doctors Without Borders addresses the CAW Council
April 6, 2013

Port Elgin
April 6, 2013

Julie Francis
Doctors Without Borders Engagement Officer

"I heard your passion today and I am inspired by the dedication of CAW members to both international and local causes in equal measure and for your commitment to social justice around the world. You have again shown your solidarity through your most recent donation to our work in Syria. We work in close to seventy countries around the world to provide aid to people affected by war, conflict, epidemics and both natural and man-made disasters. We save lives, we alleviate suffering and we restore dignity. Medicine is our tool and our point of access as humanitarians. We are motivated by that humanitarian impulse that connects us all and compels us to help others who are suffering.

So to put this work in context, Syria is surrounded by four countries; Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, we are responding in all four countries providing assistance to refugees. Since the start of the conflict roughly 57% of public hospitals have been damaged and 36% are no longer functioning, but this number does not include make shift hospitals and clinics setup by local NGOs and solidarity networks.

In terms of humanitarian toll, over all the UN has reported over seventy thousand people have died as a direct result of this conflict. Civilians have been traumatized and live in constant fear of gun fire, rockets and missiles. According to the UN-HCR, two and one half million Syrians have been displaced inside the country since the protests broke-out. Since Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been denied the ability to work in areas controlled by the government we can only provide direct assistance and deploy our teams in rebel controlled areas. Very few other aid organizations are present which is severely limiting access to healthcare.

MSF main activities in Syria is trauma, life and limb saving surgery where we treat direct victims of the conflict, people wounded by gunshots or explosions, shelling and shrapnel. We've started running out patient clinics that enable us to identify and meet other needs such as care for chronic diseases, primary healthcare consultations and maternal care. In the regions where MSF has been working children have not received vaccinations for the last eighteen months. So children under two who were born since the conflict broke out are particularly vulnerable to disease.

Just to summarize our response to all theses massive needs, Our field hospitals in Syria, one of which was first setup in a cave another on an evacuation route for the war wounded, MSF has performed fifteen hundred surgical procedures and more than twenty thousand outpatient and emergency consultations between June 2012 and February 2013. In neighbouring countries MSF is doing reconstructive surgery for the war wounded, mental health, primary healthcare, prenatal care and providing treatment for chronic illnesses. Our teams regularly carryout ad-hoc distributions of relief supplies including hygiene kits, stoves, coal, infant formula and flour. We have installed piped water, latrines and bucket chlorination to improve water and sanitation conditions to prevent the spread of disease and other infections. We have also distributed and donated supplies to field hospitals and clinics within Syria including in government controlled areas. We do our best to work on both sides of the conflict no matter how politicized the situation maybe.

In terms of training we do our best to build local capacity, so long after out teams have left there is still some medical expertise. MSF is providing training in anesthesia, use in surgical kits and mass casualty management. However because of so many syrian healthcare workers have fled this sometimes means training local dentists, pharmacists and many youth all wanting to contribute what ever they can to the relief efforts.

By all accounts the humanitarian situation for Syrians will unfortunately get worst before it gets better. In response to these growing needs we have doubled our budget for Syria over the last two months and we are looking to double the number of medical centres over the next sis months.

Despite these overwhelming needs we are doing our best in addition to the medical action the importance of our work often comes down to us simply being there to show our solidarity. Thank you for your time today and for your generous support."

CAW Making A Difference.

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