According to one field study, 40,000 head injuries have been reported since the start of the conflict in Syria, of which 25% involve eyes. In addition, it is estimated that more than 50,000 patients need diabetic retinopathy management.
A group of expatriate Ophthalmologists from the UK and beyond have been assessing the needs and visiting the affected areas under the auspices of the SBMS.
In April 2014, we established an Eye Unit as part of a local hospital on the Syrian – Turkish border. We raised over US$ 50K to procure equipment for ophthalmic surgery which was shipped to Syria. Much more has been donated by various UK hospitals, medical representatives, and European and American colleagues.
Expat ophthalmologists visit on a rotating timetable, to support the Unit which now employs five local ophthalmologists, and a small team of nurses and technicians. Salaries totalling $8500 a month are provided by the Charity Syria Relief. Funding for consumables ($12K/month) is provided by a variety of International NGOs and donations by SBMS members. These consumables are procured in Turkey and shipped to the Eye Unit.
Five years on, care for chronic eye conditions has become equally important to treating acute and traumatic eye conditions. By the first anniversary of this service, over 11,000 patients have been examined, investigated and treated in the Outpatient Clinics of the Unit, and no less than 1,500 ophthalmic operations have been performed, all free of charge.
Thousands of patients now have their eyes tested for a wide range of ocular conditions including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataract . Surgical intervention and laser treatments are carried on daily basis. Furthermore, lid , retinal and corneal surgery procedures are performed. Paediatric ophthalmology services are also available, e.g. squint correction.
Many of the costly equipment have been donated, but continuous support from multiple charities, headed by Syria Relief, and tireless fundraising, are a must if the unit is to continue to offer its services to the most needy of the suffering Syrian population.
We have faced great difficulties and challenges in planning, fundraising, staffing, financing, training, remote management and travelling to deliver free medical advice and expertise. Nevertheless, the project has been extremely rewarding and filled us with pride and satisfaction.
Whenever any of the expat volunteers is on site, we receive immense welcoming from the local team and deep gratitude from the patients we treat. Our group and the SBMS are determined to continue to provide the best medical support to the civilians in Syria.
Funding and sustaining such a Unit remain as major challenges. To support this vital project, please click here to donate. Please cite the reference “SBMS”.