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November 3, 2021

Meet three frontline healthcare workers in Syria’s struggling hospitals

In Syria, millions of qualified doctors, nurses and healthcare providers have fled the country, been displaced or killed. Over the 10 years of conflict, hospitals and medical centres have been frequent targets of attacks. Today, there is a severe shortage of healthcare professionals, despite aggressive waves of COVID-19 requiring even more staff than normal. 

Many young people in Syria, without qualifications or training, are dedicating their lives to help ease the suffering of the people around them. Meet three of the hundreds of frontline healthcare providers that SPARK and the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA), with funding from the Sheikh Abdullah Al Nouri Charity Society, are supporting to professionalise their experience, gain modern, scientific knowledge, and receive recognised qualifications to formalise their employment. 

Samah Al Obeid

“My father lost his life to his job. Now I continue his mission”

Samah Al Obeid training at Afrin National Hospital, Syria © 2021, SEMA

My father used to work as a surgeon’s assistant in field hospitals in Adnan, in the north of Syria. He lost his life to his job. I felt I should continue his mission to save lives. 

I started working in field hospitals in 2017. My skills were learnt on the job and not scientific. But I was always motivated by my father. I inherited my passion for nursing from him and I enjoy caring for people.

​​I got enrolled in SEMA’s classes, where we had qualified trainers and received training in laboratories equipped with the best possible tools. During the clinical training we had at the emergency and incubation departments of the national hospital, I can never forget newborns.

I remember a time when a patient was about to give birth, but the baby was in a state of complete cyanosis and general weakness. The midwife was busy helping the patient and was not able to save the newborn. I managed to resuscitate him under the supervision of the doctor. I’m so proud that I managed to save the life of a newborn. I am honoured that I could help him in the first and most difficult moment of his life.

​​The training provided us with the experiences we needed and prepared us to launch in the medical labour market. Now I am pursuing my academic career by moving to a new and more professional role in Afrin National Hospital.

Mahfouz Jumaa

“I helped save several lives performing CPR. I am very proud of who I’ve become”

Mahfouz Jumaa, Syria © 2021, SEMA

I studied for a year at the Medical Technical Institute as an anesthesiologist but I had to drop out for fear of getting arrested for helping the wounded.

I’ve been working in the healthcare sector since 2012. I worked as a paramedic and field nurse before I decided to take administrative roles at medical organisations in the eastern Qalamoun area of Damascus countryside.

As my experience was limited to practical knowledge with no theoretical or academic basis, I was not able to obtain certificates proving my skills. I had the chance to join the training offered by the Sheikh Abdullah Al Nouri Charity Society, SPARK and SEMA. Now, thanks to that certificate that I will soon obtain, my status in the labour market will be enhanced and more opportunities will open up for me.

Clinical training was the toughest experience for the majority of students. We saw drug poisonings, insecticides, gunshot injuries, severe wounds or patients that had fallen from heights. We had almost 500 referrals per day in the emergency department.

I helped save several lives performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for patients. I took part in treating several cases of high acidosis and developed a nursing plan. I followed up on some cases until recovery, and this was a real source of pride and confidence for me. I am very proud of who I’ve become professionally, thanks to strengthening my skills.

Iman Omeish

“I’ve now attended 25 natural births and led 5 births on my own”

Iman Omeish, trainee at Afrin National Hospital, Syria © 2021, SEMA

So far, I have completed 300 hours of training, during which experienced trainers provide mentorship and supervise us every step of the way. I’m currently training at Afrin National Hospital. During the first two months of the course with SEMA, I observed the treatments at the emergency and labour departments and then moved on to the incubation department.

In the beginning, we were working under the supervision of doctors and qualified practitioners. Step by step, we got involved in hands-on practice. I’ve now attended 25 natural births and led 5 births on my own, under the supervision of a gynaecologist. It was a unique experience for me and I now wish to specialise in pediatric obstetrics.

Despite being an experienced nurse, having started work in a private hospital in 2016, I did not have the opportunity to obtain the certification I needed to allow me to practice my profession in Ghosn Al Zaitoun and areas of northern Syria where certifications are required. The curriculum with SEMA has given me this opportunity. The training included theoretical and practical courses for 12 months, including 3 months of practical training in hospitals. I believe that opportunities like this will pave the way for young men and women to better serve the people.

Watch to learn more about SPARK's programme training healthcare workers in Syria, in collaboration with SEMA and the Sheikh Abdullah Al Nouri Charity Society.