A new collaboration with the WHO: building capacity for chronic disease care in Syria

Syria has never been far from the news headlines this Christmas. Some six million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) bear witness to the suffering on all sides of this complex conflict. It is in this context that PCI has been honoured and humbled to be engaged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to adapt its Package of Essential Non-Communicable Disease Interventions (PEN) to humanitarian contexts and deliver training to doctors working within the region.

Our role has been to help the WHO increase the capacity of its partner organisations to tackle NCDs: chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease. It may come as a surprise that this is a priority for a country engulfed by bloody conflict but mortality data for Syria shows that while ‘injuries’ caused nearly half the deaths in 2015, non-communicable diseases (mainly cardiovascular disease) accounted for almost as many.

In September we delivered a Training of Trainers programme for doctors working inside Northern Syria. This has now been cascaded to 100 Primary Health Care clinics who are seeking to provide a continuity of chronic disease care to its vulnerable and transient population.

This month, we will be delivering a webinar for doctors working in Southern Syria on the same topics. It is our hope that we will follow this up with a face-to-face training when conditions allow.

Our brief experience so far has filled us with awe for what the human spirit will do in the worst of circumstances and renewed our determination to stand in solidarity with the doctors we have trained, as we move forward in our work with the WHO.