December 31, 2015

Syrian HospitalOne of the hallmark values of Physicians for Social Responsibility is that, as health care providers, we take our values of health and healing, and apply them globally. We look at the planet, at our air, water and soil, and work to make it vibrant. We look at our nation’s policies, and work to make them peaceful and sustainable. We look at our community resources, and work to make them responsive, strong, and compassionate.

We also look at the world around us, with a realization that we cannot work toward health in our own communities without working also to ensure the health of others.

It is with this global perspective of health that we’ve turned our eyes toward Syria, and toward the reaction within our own country to perceived threats. What we see is that xenophobia is deeply unhealthy. We see that racism is profoundly harmful. We see that exclusion and fear affect us all, not just those in a distant region of the world.

We know that our fate is tied to that of our colleagues. Rohini Haar, SF Bay Area PSR Board Member, has spoken with, and continues to work with, Syrian doctors whose lives have been forever changed. They had worked in conditions just like those of US doctors – with the equipment they needed, ready access to medicines, with staffed hospitals, clinics and private practices. They mentored medical students and conducted important research.

Today, many Syrian health care providers do their work without electricity, sanitation, even water. They can only do surgeries that last an hour or two, they cannot provide life-saving medicines, or treat the increasing number of war-related injuries. They work in bombed out buildings or in the street. Preventative care is a thing of the past.

While the media has now begun to highlight the crisis in Syria, conflict and war have made it so some of our colleagues have worked under these conditions for over 5 years. They have sent their families away while they continue to meet a rising need, all the while being under threat of their own lives. As an invaluable part of the country’s infrastructure, health care providers are targeted and threatened in order to weaken Syria internally. 

It is clear as well that the crisis will continue to affect our global community for years to come. For example, the Guardian recently published a report detailing how the lack of nutrition will create “irreversible health issues” for Syrian children.

We also see that this conflict has some of its origins in an unhealthy planet. A devastating drought lit a flame under the festering political tensions, and the fight over resources became that much more severe. As climate change continues to sweep across the globe, we know that we will see only more human conflict if action is not taken swiftly.

All of us at SF Bay Area PSR are thankful you’ve joined us, and are part of the chorus singing out for health, justice and a better future for all of us, all across the globe.