In his appeal, Zenari noted that “there are more than 13 million Syrians who have been affected by the war and require humanitarian assistance such as food and medicines”.
Since 2016, Zenari has been involved with AVSI’s Open Hospitals, an initiative to address the current health crisis in the country. The project provides medical care for those living in poverty and supports the activities of three non-profit hospitals in Syria.
Open Hospitals is implemented by AVSI with the support of individual donors, various institutions, and private foundations including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association.
“Half of Syria’s hospitals are currently out of commission making the need for medical care desperate, particularly in conflict areas where hospitals are often a target and eight in ten people live in poverty,” said Giampaolo Silvestri, AVSI Secretary-General in a recent interview with crux.now. “We are looking for resources to continue, but things are progressing well. There is still a continued need for healthcare.”
With the situation on the ground not improving, Zenari agrees. “We have to continue our efforts and deal with the health emergency,” says the Cardinal, adding that it is crucial “to keep our eyes on Syria and not let the curtain fall” on the tragic situation that continues to unfold.
“The worst way of being killed,” he said, “is by silence and indifference.”
In 2017, AVSI launched the Open Hospitals campaign, promoted by the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus together with Cor Unum and the Gemelli Foundation, to ensure free care for poor patients in three Syrian nonprofit hospitals and 4 dispensaries. Such an intervention was necessary to face an unparalleled health crisis: nearly 11.5 million people, 40% of whom are children, do not receive adequate medical care; more than 2 million people in the Aleppo district and more than 1 million in Damascus don’t have access to hospitals. The national health care system cannot cope with the demand for treatment, and families are unable to pay health care fees.
The Saint Louis Hospital in Aleppo, which luckily is still fully functional after the earthquake, is precisely one of these hospitals supported by AVSI through the project “Syria. Open Hospitals.” To date, more than 95,000 free treatments have been provided to poor Syrians. These days, more than 80 people injured during the earthquake have been able to receive treatment here.
In Syria, AVSI also works in the fields of education and economic strengthening, with a special focus on women.