Conversations: A Pharmacist in Qalamoun

Nawwar, who works with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, describes his work with the group in this mountainous region of southern Syria, where rebel fighting groups are fighting hand to hand with Hezbollah-backed government forces.

Written by Wessam Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, here is a conversation between Syria Deeply and Nawwar, a pharmacist working at the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s branch in Qalamoun.

SARC is the main conduit of medical care and emergency aid inside Syria, funded by the Syrian government. Here, Nawwar discusses his day-to-day role with the organization in a city beset by fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Our medical care includes examining the patient, following up on his [or her] medical condition and providing the proper medication with all means and capabilities available. Mainly, we provide first aid and life-saving drugs for chronic illnesses. These include medication for diabetes and blood pressure, and antibiotics, as well as women’s medications, pain relievers and antipyretics. We also treat burns and skin infections.

Before the battle escalated in Qalamoun, the organization used to cover a decent percentage of its patients’ needs. We were able to give out more medication to accelerate their recovery and help them avoid any health setbacks. Now the rate of meeting our patients’ needs has sharply declined, and there’s nothing to indicate that the situation will improve soon. We constantly suffer shortages in pharmaceutical drugs and medical aid, so we have limited our work to providing life-saving medication. Even then, we do so in limited amounts so as to be able to treat as many patients as possible. The shortages have become apparent in all sectors in the organization due to the lack of medical supply and aid.

Frankly, the number of those in need has increased exponentially beyond the capabilities of the organization. The regime currently has areas of Qalamoun under some form of siege. Often aid isn’t allowed to pass through, especially any medical aid, for fear the armed opposition would get hold of the [medical supplies]. Meanwhile, they forget the civilians who are in need.

The opposition has also played a role in the dwindling of medical supplies. Some opposition fighters loot Red Crescent clinics, taking large quantities of medication for their own time of need. Yet most of them can’t read the instructions accompanying the medicine, let alone know how to administer it.

There are many solutions. To start with, we can improve the organization’s policy so as to increase its allocated sources for medicine to cover a larger number of those in need. We should be allowed to distribute these pharmaceuticals while having the ability to protect it from looting. We can come up with a [smart] marketing campaign to grow our medical staff and attract more competent volunteers who will make sure medicine is given only to those who need it.

This shortage in medicine and medical supplies is reflected in the deteriorating health of many vulnerable families and threatens the lives of many who are too poor [to get the needed medication on their own]. This is the current reality, regardless of whether the regime or the opposition is responsible. At the end of the day, the biggest losers are the Syrian people.

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