Aleppo’s Children of the World Medical Center addresses the Syrian city’s severe health care shortage

Presbyterian Church works to address the deterioration of Aleppo’s heath care sector

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

The Neville family children and a friend staffed a lemonade stand to raise money for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. (Photo courtesy of Trabuco  Presbyterian Church)

LOUISVILLE — After 10 years of ongoing war in Syria, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) and the Presbyterian Church in Aleppo created the Children of the World Medical Center in Aleppo to address the scale, severity and complexity of the humanitarian needs in the country.

With a foundation of Christian and humanitarian values, the center, which first opened in June 2020, provides much needed basic and primary medical services to the underserved in Aleppo. In Aleppo, and some of the more highly populated areas of Syria, there is a severe shortage of hospitals, medical supplies and basic health care.

Based on the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), 11.7 million people in Syria require some form of humanitarian assistance, an estimated 3.55 in Aleppo and the surrounding area. The Mid-Year 2020 report published by Global Health Information Management Tool, the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Health in Syria and the Directorate of Health detail the stunning damage in numbers. For instance, about 70% of the area’s health care infrastructure is damaged. Of the 227 health care facilities, only 28 are functioning.

The medical center’s budget for one year is $31,200. Many of the doctors were initially recruited to work for two U.S. dollars a day.

The goal of the clinic is to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen health protections for some of the most at-risk, offering check-ups, medical consultations, medicine, radiology and referrals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the most affected groups are infants and children under five, pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as the elderly and disabled.

These groups are the most impacted by the deterioration of the health sector due to a severe shortage of health care and basic services such as water, sanitation, food, nutrition and shelter. These groups are more at risk of disease, are unable to receive checkups by doctors, are unable to secure medicine and have a higher risk of death. For many, those needs are no longer a priority for most of the poor people while they are struggling to secure their daily food.

Specialties offered include internal medicine, paediatrics, gynaecology, dental, vascular, pulmonology, endocrinology, orthopedics, hematology, oncology, otorhinolaryngology, dermatology, psychiatric, rheumatology, neurology and nutrition.

Funding for the clinic in the U.S. has come from PC(USA)’s One Great Hour of Sharing and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and churches like Trabuco Presbyterian Church in Trabuco Canyon, California, part of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos.

The Revs. Scott and Elmarie Parker are mission co-workers in Syria and Lebanon. (Contributed photo)

The church was learning more about the work of mission co-workers in Syria and Lebanon, the Revs. Scott and Elmarie Parker. Inspired, they decided, in partnership with the church’s mission committee, that contributions over the month would be used to help families in Syria and Lebanon to rebuild homes damaged by the Beirut explosion, provide food, water and fuel, as well as help fund the Children of the World Medical Center.

The church first hosted an outdoor family event where One Great Hour of Sharing fish banks were distributed to families. The theme of the day was “Mustard Seed of Hope,” with the message that God can use whatever we share to make a difference in people’s lives, regardless of the size of the contribution. The Neville family, with three children, set up a lemonade stand so they could add to their fish banks. Jacob Sherlock, a Cub Scout, organized a garage sale to fill up his bank, which overflowed.

Cub Scout Jacob Sherlock organized a garage sale to fill his fish bank. (Photo courtesy of Trabuco Presbyterian Church)

The church raised more than $5,000 to help Syrian refugees and support the medical clinic.

When Elmarie Parker shared the Trabuco initiative with partners in Syria and Lebanon, the Rev. Ibrihim Nseir of the Presbyterian Church in Aleppo said: “It is great to know how you teach and educate your children. It great to give more than you receive. We are in debt to these mature children.”

NESSL general secretary, the Rev. Joseph Kassab said, “We are overwhelmed by the initiative of those children and their insistence to be part of God’s mission in the world.” Elmarie Parker added, “This is an example of why solidarity with one another matters — especially when it’s solidarity with and between those who are most vulnerable. When we share in one another’s challenges, we also encourage one another’s spirits. We encounter Jesus and are reminded that we are collectively the body of Christ in the world.”

The Children of the World Medical Center provides care to all segments of society. Its mission emphasizes gender equality without any ethnic or religious discrimination.

For more information about the clinic, watch this YouTube video.

You can also email mission co-worker Elmarie Parker at Elmarie.parker@pcusa.

“For over 70 years One Great Hour of Sharing has connected the Church with one another and with the most vulnerable,” said Bryce Wiebe, PMA’s director of Special Offerings. “We celebrate the long-term, reciprocal relationships through which God transforms us all.”

One Great Hour of Sharing supports Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People. All three programs work in different ways to serve individuals and communities in need. Gifts can be made here.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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