Looking back at our work – With Médécins Sans Frontières

“When people think about the conflict in Syria they often picture boats crossing the Mediterranean, or makeshift camps in neighboring countries. But the people we see on TV or in the newspapers are just some of those displaced. The vast majority of Syrians have been displaced internally."

Interview with Paul Yon, Head of Mission, Syria

"Within our collaboration with the UBS Optimus Foundation our care for pregnant women and new-born children in Syria focused on safe delivery and infection prevention in new-borns. In Hassakeh, we attended about a thousand natural births. We also provided 120 emergency Cesarean sections. Over the year we noted an increasing demand for Cesarean sections that were not medically indicated. These requests come from the stress and deep anxiety of the mothers. Our prenatal services now include mental health counseling and education support to promote non-surgical birth, which has far fewer risks, especially of infection and complications for both mother and child.

Among older children, the trauma of displacement often manifests itself in bed-wetting, which is widespread. This is usually relatively easy to treat. But in the camps it is much more difficult. First, because it points to unknown additional traumas we have to diagnose and treat. Second, the stigma around mental health, and the social exclusion bed-wetting can cause, aggravate existing trauma. Finally, we don’t know how long the children will be with us before they are forced to move on again. We are now working to create streamlined protocols for providing therapy for children, to reduce their mental trauma, before they have to move on.

We are very concerned that so many of the displaced children have been out of school for three years or more. As a medical humanitarian organization we don’t provide schooling directly, but we now partner with education organizations to make sure the children are receiving the stimulation they need for their cognitive development and mental health. Finally, we now support winterization services and provide wound kits and training to hospital staff to manage mass casualties. The risks of epidemics in camps mean that we also provide vaccination against polio and other childhood diseases.

The trust between the UBS Optimus Foundation and Médecins Sans Frontières gives us a wonderful freedom to be needs-based. We are able to continually assess the needs of our patients, and then to tailor our response accordingly. This is really important in this ever-changing landscape.”

About Médecins Sans Frontières:

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. The funding provided by the UBS Optimus Foundation in 2015 focused on providing health structures for births and neonatal care for newborn babies, as well as emergency response services for up to 40,000 internally displaced people in Syria.

(This interview was first published in our Annual Review)