March 25, 2021

Fast Facts About The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Get the facts about the Syrian refugee crisis—and better understand one of the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time.

Fact 1

Syria’s uprising, which started in 2011 and turned into a civil war, has created one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Half of the country’s pre-conflict population—an estimated 12 million people—have been forced to flee their homes.

Source: UNHCR

Fact 2

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war, or violence. Refugees are entitled to protection under international law.

Source: UNHCR

Fact 3

About 6 in 10 Syrians are displaced from their homes, a number unprecedented in recent history for a single country.

Source: Pew Research Center

Fact 4

More than 6.1 million Syrians are displaced within Syria.

Source: Mercy Corps

Fact 5

Globally, there are more people fleeing conflict than at any time since World War II.

Source: The New York Times

Fact 6

Syrians continue to make up the world’s largest refugee population.

Source: UNHCR

Fact 7

About half of all people affected by the Syrian refugee crisis are children.

Source: World Vision

Fact 8

Turkey shelters the largest number of Syrian refugees, currently hosting 3.6 million. Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt also host a significant number of Syrian refugees.

Source: UNHCR

Fact 9

The United States accepted 481 Syrian refugees into the country in the 2020 fiscal year. During the 2018 fiscal year, the U.S. resettled only 62 Syrian refugees.

Source: The Washington Post + The New York Times

Fact 10

Thousands of generous people have helped Syrian refugees through SEMA US’ medical missions. The fund supports refugee communities delivering critical medical support and services to Syrian refugees in Syria and neighboring countries.

As the Syrian refugee crisis continues for an 11th year, people who are affected need your help.

March 11, 2021

Reflecting on a Different and Remarkable Year of COVID-19

Thursday marks exactly one year since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Since then, the virus has taken some 2.6 million lives around the world.

365 days ago, a cluster of COVID-19 cases shut down communities. Soon after, businesses, restaurants, schools began to follow. At that time, the coronavirus was a foreign concept. Now it is part of everyday life.

The COVID pandemic has highlighted a world of inequality, where discrimination has passed unquestioned and livelihoods have been destroyed. The threat posed by failing health systems and lack of resources is as real today as it was at the outbreak of the pandemic, especially in underdeveloped countries.

As we reflect back on the past year, it is important to note how much we’ve lost and how far we’ve come. In response to the pandemic and myriad other crises, we came together as a community in ways we never could have imagined – supporting one another, finding solutions to complex challenges, and making significant sacrifices as individuals and as an organization. None of it has been easy, and for many in our community, the consequences of the pandemic have been nothing short of tragic. We want to extend our heartfelt condolences to those of you who have suffered the loss of a loved one, and my compassion to all who have faced – and may be continuing to deal with – your own serious health issues or other significant disruption to your lives due to COVID-19. 

We remain hopeful and optimistic that we are turning a corner. While we continue to see new cases of COVID-19 in the communities we serve, we try to have adequate resources to support and provide medical care to those who become infected, through your generosity. 

Looking ahead to what comes next, we all are thinking about a return to “normal,” and what “normal” even means anymore. No matter what happens, one thing we know, for better or worse, is that things will never be the same. 

Without question, this year has tested us on many levels. There has been heartbreak and disappointment. But it also has made us stronger. I’m grateful to every one of you for all you have given of yourselves to help refugees in need through our programs and we hope you allow us to continue our mission. In so many ways, you have shown that you truly kept our organization impactful.

From all of us at SEMA US,

Thank you very much.

March 4, 2021

A decade of destruction: attacks on health care in Syria

Since the onset of the Syria conflict in March 2011, civilians have borne the brunt of the violence and withstood untold suffering. Their health facilities have been hit particularly hard, even though they are protected from attack under international law and should be safe havens in times of great need.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic spread in 2020, attacks persisted, destroying hospitals, killing medical personnel, and preventing many from seeking and receiving lifesaving medical attention. The remaining Syrian medical practitioners have risked their own lives to provide health care in the midst of horrific violence, despite a lack of equipment and medication.

Inside the destruction

  • 59% of civilians in northwest Syria have been directly impacted by an attack on health care facilities.
  • 12 million Syrians are in need of health assistance, and roughly one third require routine reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health services.
  • 56% of Syrians fear living in proximity to a health facility given the risk of attack.
  • 84% of health workers reported that attacks on health care directly affected them, their team or their patients, and 81% know of patients or colleagues who were killed in attacks.

One in four health practitioners witnessed attacks that left facilities beyond repair or restoration, with many setting up facilities in unconventional places such as caves, private homes and underground cellars.

Only 64% of hospitals and 52% of primary health care centers are functioning across Syria, while an estimated 70% of the health workforce has fled the country.

“What we have been through has wholly affected our psyches. When you see your brother or your friend or son with their hand cut off or their leg cut off…this is a situation no mind would accept. But with the resilience of the medical staff and the resilience of those managing the work, with God’s support, the hospital remained in operation, providing these extraordinary services.” — Saleh, a health worker

How SEMA US helps

SEMA has been working in Syria supporting vulnerable communities suffering from violence and displacement. We ensure the uninterrupted flow of medicines, supplies and health care equipment. We also operate clinics and mobile teams to provide lifesaving trauma services and reproductive care. Our response to the pandemic also includes public education campaigns and training health workers in infection prevention and control.

January 21, 2021

When People Flee to Seek Refuge

There is a story behind every single refugee. Conflicts, poverty, illness, civil war, famine. But is that really it? 

More than a crisis

We remember faces, stories, names of colleagues and patients, often of the surrounding nature, the local food, the music.

Tragic moments, too, when we have lost a patient, when we hear the fate of the colleague, and sometimes the moments when everything feels too much to handle, when we are tired, exhausted and maybe close to burning out.

But we still would not want to miss a single assignment.

The joy of the patients, when they made it and were allowed to leave the treatment center as cured.

The (unbelievably delicious) breaking of the fast during Ramadan together with the local staff and our little hero, as we lovingly called him, a newborn on whom we almost gave up, but who battled himself back to life.

The tours to vaccinate children in the even most remote villages and then in the evening the hours spent together around the campfire.

The tenacious will of the mothers, who often struggle alone on their own through their heavy lives in the camp and our colleagues who have some hard years of war behind them and yet do not lose their smile.

Why people flee

From a distance, these countries sound strange and far away, nothing that concerns us here.

Often many hours away by air, you may have read about some of them in newspapers or on the radio. Others may sound completely unknown.

The reasons to flee and seek refuge elsewhere are as numerous as there are refugees. There is a story behind every single one of them – something that is often forgotten when purely mentioning the numbers.

Everyone has had sisters or brothers, children or parents, but most certainly a best friend whom they left behind.

In the course of our years with SEMA US, we have heard many stories. Some of them are hard to bear.

That fewer people try to flee, just because there are no rescue ships is a fallacy. Because the reasons to flee their homes remain the same – and also it is not up to us to evaluate these.

Detention centers where torture and rape are the order of the day are more than widespread. Access to medical assistance is virtually non-existent.

What we appreciate

The strength of the people on the ground, who carry on, who don’t give up hope, is always one of the most impressive memories we take home with us.

These are walls that block the view of people in need, walls that forbid saving human lives.

Another thing that stays with us is the tremendous appreciation of our own privileges in which we grew up, the safe haven we can return to after each new assignment. And how much richer our lives have already become through these experiences and newfound friendships.

Beyond walls

Even though we feel particularly affected as a nurse in humanitarian work, we know that we are not the only one who worries when human rights are publicly challenged.

What concerns us – we  will continue to work for SEMA US. From our blog posts, we will continue to tell you about the help we provide locally in order to save human lives.

Whether they are big or small people, wounded soldiers or pregnant women, it does not matter to SEMA US and it doesn’t matter to us.

And you? Do not close your eyes, do not be fooled by walls, even if they are made of words, and do not let humanity disappear from your hearts.

We can only do it together.

December 23, 2020

SEMA US: 2020 Impact Report

2020 saw the unprecedented confluence of a deadly global pandemic with natural disasters worldwide. In response to these unrelenting catastrophes, SEMA US this year worked on more fronts than ever before. This report provides an overview of how SEMA US has leveraged support from generous individuals, companies, and foundations to significantly expand operations while continuing ongoing services and support for local health systems in 2020.

By the numbers

  • $310,000 in donations
  • 19,800+ accommodated patients and provided free pharmacy
  • $20,000 spent on prostheses for amputated patients
  • 100 sponsored nursing and paramedics students

Strengthening health systems during COVID-19

SEMA US equips low-resource communities with health care services, medicines and supplies on an ongoing basis and in response to emergencies. In 2020, the organization has been called upon to continue its support for medically vulnerable communities and those still affected by disasters from previous years while the global Covid-19 pandemic has intensified. As most global commercial and humanitarian activity significantly contracted due to Covid-19, SEMA US drastically expanded its response efforts to: 

  • Provide medical materials, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), having delivered thousands of masks, gloves, and other PPE items free-of-charge to health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic 
  • Provide ventilators to help establish ICUs in community health centers to support their vital front-line role in providing access to health care, including Covid-19-related services
  • Distribute hygiene bags which contains cleaning and hygiene materials to equip underprivileged refugee families affected by healthcare exclusion
  • Raise awareness in refugee communities where access to proper medical information is lacking
  • Provide proper healthcare workers’ training and education regarding COVID-19
  • Provide screening triage areas with immediate temporal isolation shelters/tents
  • Continuously disinfect SEMA medical centers, hospitals and offices

We do not know for certain how long this pandemic will last, but what is certain is that primary care and health centers are critical to our response.

Reaching out after the Beirut Explosion

Immediately after a devastating blast rocked Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, some SEMA US staff who were already working in the country went to health facilities to see how they could assist medics responding to the emergency:

  • Organized a donation of wound kits 
  • Treated people injured, free of charge
  • Evaluated whether patients who need further surgery can be referred to and treated in one of our hospitals after they have been stabilized
  • Assessed the most pressing needs in hospitals
  • Identified additional ways to assist people under such tragic circumstances

Supporting women and children

In low-resource communities, improvements in maternal care and children’s health strengthen health systems overall. SEMA US teams at our medical projects, although trying their best to keep the core services running, are already seeing the painful indirect effects of the pandemic.

In 2020, SEMA US has supported midwives and other maternal and child healthcare providers with medicines and supplies, including:

  • Equipping trained midwives to ensure safe births in medically vulnerable communities during the pandemic
  • Providing access to sexual and reproductive healthcare
  • Expanding with a Women and Children clinic in Lebanon to provide general medical assistance to women and children affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare access

As 2020 comes to a close and we reflect on a year shadowed by fear, uncertainty, and loss, many of us are also reminded of how precious life is. This holiday season, consider giving a gift that helps save lives at a time when so many lack access to health care.

December 9, 2020

The Role of the Youth in Containing COVID-19

Undeniably, the COVID-19 has posed many challenges globally. Lebanon is not an exception to this pandemic; neither has it been exempted from the infection and effects of Coronavirus. Its impacts are felt especially to the vulnerable groups including refugee children, women and the elderly. Closure of schools has also disrupted children’s ability to learn and interact with others. The containment at homes has added stress on family members. Working from home is also proving to be a hectic task. As Lebanon is adapting to the new situation, many are also at risk of losing their employment.

While so many of us are dealing with new realities created by this pandemic, we make sure SEMA US continues to provide lifesaving care to Lebanon. Our teams of doctors, nurses, logisticians, and other staff are responding to everything, from the spread of COVID-19 to the aftermath of conflict and natural disasters. We continue the impact on our ability to ensure medical care services are uninterrupted — even during a pandemic.

As youth who are yet to be financially capable to help support the healthcare needs of many, they can invest more time on awareness during this time of COVID-19. They should be encouraging the community to practice social distancing, hand hygiene and self-isolation. They can also work with the local government and community based organizations on offering psychosocial support to the affected. They may actively engage in social media campaigns and awareness of the pandemic. Nonetheless, more awareness ought to be directed in ending refugee stigma together with the existing issue on violence against children and women.

SEMA US calls all community members to flatten the curve of COVID-19, as it requires self discipline and awareness to spare the underprivileged communities.

December 3, 2020

Forced to flee: Top 3 countries refugees are coming from

Around the world, 79.5 million people have been forcibly displaced. That’s the most since World War II, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Since most people remain displaced within their home country, how many refugees are there in the world? About 26 million people worldwide have fled to other countries as refugees. Another 4.2 million people have applied for refugee status, but not received it yet. More than half of refugees are children.

Here are the top three countries of origin that account for the most refugees in the world today. 

1. Syria — 6.7 million refugees and asylum-seekers

Most Syrians who are refugees because of the Syrian war remain in the Middle East. Turkey hosts 3.6 million, the largest number of refugees hosted by any country in the world. Syrian refugees are also in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. During 2018, 1.4 million refugees returned home to Syria. Returnees face a daunting situation, including lack of infrastructure and services and danger from explosive devices. About 6.2 million Syrians remain displaced inside the country.

2. Venezuela — 4.5 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and people displaced abroad

Years of economic and political instability in Venezuela caused millions of Venezuelans to leave the country between 2014 and the end of 2019. They migrate to seek food, work, and a better life, most of them to nearby countries. Many Venezuelans on the move lack legal status and need international protection and aid.

World Vision provides assistance to Venezuelan migrants in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. In Venezuela, we are working through partner organizations to make life better for children and families.

3. Afghanistan — 2.7 million refugees

About 2.7 million people from Afghanistan are living as refugees, representing the second-largest refugee population in the world. Pakistan hosts nearly 1.4 million, including some second- or third-generation Afghan refugees who have never lived in their home country. Some have been forced to return home from neighboring countries, but increased violence in Afghanistan since 2015 has led to a new surge of asylum-seekers. More than 4 million Afghans are displaced within the country due to conflict, drought, and other natural disasters.

How you can help refugees:

  • Pray  for mothers, fathers, and children who struggle to survive as refugees. 
  • Give  to SEMA US to help provide for their medical needs. 
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