Summer 2009 Medical Mission to Treat Iraqi and Palestinian Refugees in Syria

The home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees for over half a century, Syria has since 2003 taken in over 1 million Iraqi refugees.  The International Crisis Group estimates that 57% of Iraqis in Syria are affected by chronic medical conditions and a late 2007 survey conducted by IPSOS found depression and anxiety highly prevalent, affecting 89 percent and 82 percent respectively of registered refugees.  350,000 Iraqis visited Syrian Arab Red Crescent clinics between January 2007 and April 2008, whereas UNRWA estimates over 1 million annual medical and dental patient visits by Palestinian refugees.  While the Syrian government and international organizations provide basic services to the refugee communities, a significant need for additional resources, support and expertise remains.

This medical mission, organized by a professor and a graduate student at Georgetown University, addresses this need by connecting American-trained doctors, nurses, and other health professionals with clinics and institutions in Syria and providing them a platform to provide training, assistance, and consultation to health care professionals on the ground that treat Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.  Volunteers work through United Nations agencies and sponsored clinics throughout Damascus, both working alongside local staff to diagnose and treat patients in need and leading workshops for health care professionals on relevant topics.

We call upon all doctors, nurses, health care professionals, and others interested to participate in our pilot mission, which will take place in Damascus from May 10 to June 10 2009.  Volunteers are welcome to participate during any period of at least one week during this one month window.  Given the multitude of diverse challenges facing both refugee communities, all specialties are welcome, though those with expertise in psychiatry, psychology, and post-traumatic stress are especially needed.  All in-country logistics, including housing, transportation, translation, and food will be arranged and costs covered by the mission’s organizers; volunteers will be asked to cover the cost of airfare to and from Damascus and any tourism they wish to undertake or special needs they might have.

If you are interested in participating and/or you have any questions, please contact:

Omar Shakir, MA Candidate in Arab Studies at Georgetown and co-head of Mission’s Organizing Committee:, +1-408-390-4802

Rochelle Davis, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown and co-head of Mission’s Organizing Committee:, +1-202-687-0351