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Syrian doctors on front lines of COVID-19 fight around the world

Doctors in Italy trying to save a patient (Reuters)

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Enab Baladi- Khawla Hafezi

“The real horror is to transmit the infection to a close person, I live with my family, and my father has heart disease and blood pressure fluctuations. I live in constant fear when returning home; I try to isolate myself so I won’t transmit the infection to them.”

With these words, Syrian doctor Ella Zino, a 31 years-old young lady, expressed to Enab Baladi her concerns about working as a doctor in Brazil, amid the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

Dr. Zino revealed her concerns about the risk of her infection with the virus and said that she is at peace with herself, and knows that the possibility of the virus being transmitted to her is very high as is the case with all doctors, primarily that she works in the emergency and intensive care department.

Ela Zino is one of the hundreds of Syrian doctors around the world who work on the front lines of fighting the “pandemic.” They had to leave their families behind to do so, some of them contracted the disease, while others lost their lives after contracting it while on duty. 

There are no official records on Syrian doctors’ contributions to curb the coronavirus in their countries of asylum. Meanwhile, their efforts were limited to the individual or collective initiatives within their work establishments.

In Turkey, a group of Syrian doctors, southern the country, announced their willingness to work as volunteers alongside the Turkish medical personnel to help contain coronavirus in Gaziantep Province.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Dr. Muhammad al-Hajj, one of the participants in the initiative, said, “we handed a list with the names of 100 Syrian doctors willing to work voluntarily alongside the Turkish medical personnel, to the governor of Gaziantep.”

 Meantime, Syrian doctors living in the province participated in covering the four entry points to the city in order to examine inbound travelers and ensure that they are virus-free. 

Al-Hajj added, “the first team was formed on 30 March, and it consisted of four medical teams to cover the city’s entrances. These teams work for five hours a day.” 

The same was the case for Istanbul, where Syrian doctors offered their services free of charge to confront the novel “pandemic,” through an initiative by “the Syrian House” association aimed at contributing to these setup efforts. The initiative witnessed the participation of 250 Arab doctors, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

A great sense of responsibility: 

The Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) said, on a Facebook post, that its members in the United States are among the heroic medical workers on the front lines to curb the “pandemic.”

The director of SAMS office in Turkey and northern Syria, Dr. Mazen Kwera, told Enab Baladi that the Syrian doctors at home and abroad enjoy a strong sense of responsibility, and each of them provides what they can to confront the “pandemic.”

He added, “our institution consists of about 1,500 Syrian-American doctors who responded to the current event, especially in the underserved areas like Idlib.”

According to Kwera, “SAMS” provides support to nearly 800 health workers in northwestern Syria, including 300 doctors. 

Nearly 40 percent of doctors fled Syria in the past years, where 80 percent of them were newly qualified ones, according to the pro-government newspaper “al-Watan,” quoting the General Director of the Syrian Commission for Medical Specialties, Younes kablan.

Germany alone hosts more than 3,908 Syrian doctors, and they come in second in the number of foreign doctors in Germany, according to statistics by the German Medical Association in March 2019.

The experience of a Syrian doctor who contracted COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed discontent about reports incoming from different parts of the globe and the vast numbers of coronavirus cases among health workers.

Hisham al-Nashwati, a Syrian physician, was one of the doctors who contracted the virus while working in New Jersey and announced returning to work after recovery.

On 4 March, al-Nashwati published a photo of him on his Facebook account, wearing his medical clothing and a protective mask covering his face. The doctor also talked about symptoms of the virus infection, as well as his experience during home quarantine, providing pieces of advice to his followers.

Al-Nashwati said in another post, “healthcare workers are real heroes who risk their lives to care for patients infected with COVID-19.”

“We will likely lose more colleagues before winning this battle, as healthcare systems suffer from shortages while being affected by these needs, al-Nashwati concluded his post.

Syrian doctors among coronavirus fatalities 

Three Syrian doctors lost their lives in Italy in the past few days, after contracting the coronavirus at work. 

Dr. Abdul Sattar Ayroud (an 80-year-old), was the first Syrian doctor to die after contracting the virus from one of his patients.

Followed by another Syrian doctor, Abd al-Ghani Makki, and be the second doctor to die of health complications related to COVID-19 in Italy. 

Dr. Givonte Moradian is another Syrian doctor who died after contracting the virus while working at an Italian hospital and remained on the job until the last days before his death.

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