DR. SAREN AZER of Comox treats a young boy during his visit to Syria last fall.

DR. SAREN AZER of Comox treats a young boy during his visit to Syria last fall.

Comox Valley doctor, woman helping to ease plight of Syrian refugees

More than two million Syrian refugees have fled their country, and over one million of those are children.

More than two million Syrian refugees have fled their country, and over one million of those are children, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A further four million people are displaced in Syria.

Of the fled refugees, about 80,000 are squished into Domiz Syrian Refugee Camp, which is in Iraq near the Syrian border. This camp is two kilometres square.

Comox doctor Saren Azer volunteered at the camp last October, and understands the need for medical supplies.

“It is very dire. The camp was originally built for 8,000 to 12,000 people,” says Azer, noting about 40,000 were living at the camp when he was there. “Now, I’ve heard that that number has grown to about 80,000.

“So, 80,000 people are packed into two square kilometres — literally extremely crowded, really poor sanitation, pretty much no hygiene and a lack access to clean water.

“There is only one medical clinic that has one physician that works from 9 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.) so literally there’s barely any medical care, so dire, dire situation, and a large number of unnecessary deaths — malnutrition, infectious diseases, pneumonia, meningitis, gastroenteritis, illnesses are widely spread.”

Azer’s non-profit International Society for Peace and Human Rights (ISPHR) launched a Medical Hope for Syria campaign, which aims to raise $39,000 by the end of this month in the Comox Valley. This money would purchase, and pay for the shipping of, 50 Physician Travel Packs, which are suitcase-sized boxes that can treat up to 600 children and adults.

“That’s enough to help 30,000 patients, so that’s a huge amount of assistance,” adds Comox Valley campaign volunteer Julie Angus, who is part Syrian and has family living in Syria.

Angus notes a philanthropist has offered to match any funds raised by ISPHR so if $39,000 were raised in the Valley, that would actually mean 100 Physician Travel Packs could be sent to the refugee camp.

“And because we’re working with the charity Health Partners International, every dollar (raised) gets $10 worth of medical supplies, so it really is going a long way,” she continues, noting the entire campaign is volunteer driven so every cent raised goes towards the cause.

“What we’re trying to do is make positive change for the people who have been most affected by this war, which is the civilians,” she says, noting her father moved from Syria to Canada when he was 20 and she has cousins, aunts and uncles living in Aleppo, Syria.

“They’re in the middle of the war zone so they’ve witnessed horrible things,” she explains, as she admits she worries about them. “The windows in their home have been shot out, there’s major food shortages, there’s no fresh water, there’s no electricity, the kids haven’t been in school for pretty much two years — it’s the middle of a war zone. The terror that people in Syria are facing is, you know, beyond words in some cases.”

Azer adds the refugees who leave Syria walk across the border with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and, according to the United Nations, about 5,000 to 6,000 Syrians do so every day, most of them women and children.

Last February, ISPHR sent 50 Physician Travel Packs to the Domiz Camp, and the medicine in those packs saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives, according to ISPHR’s website. Azer recently heard the camp has run out of medical supplies, and “the graveyard at the camp is getting larger and larger,” from camp medical workers.

Each pack costs $575 and contains nearly $6,000 of medicine and supplies. After purchasing the packs, ISPHR co-ordinates the delivery, ensuring the packs reach the camp’s health centre.

ISPHR calls on community service clubs, businesses, schools, neighbourhoods, book clubs, churches, sports teams, organizations and individuals to join their fundraising efforts.

Organizations can contact Lynn Foster, ISPHR executive secretary, at fosterlf@shaw.ca or 250-650-7763 to receive a fundraiser package or make a donation. Donations can also be sent to 162 Manor Pl., Comox, B.C. V9M 1C6. Donations are tax-deductible and should be made out to Health Partners International, Canada. More information is available at www.peaceandhumanrights.org.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering of the Denman Green plans for the Kirk Road site. Image, DHA/Ronan Design
Denman Green finds new site for housing

Facing COVID delays, the project reached expiration date on initial site

A fawn stands in a field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
MARS hoping to build fawn complex for rehab

Their goal is to raise $20,000 in a relatively short period of time.

Aspen Park in Comox is the latest school reporting a COVID-19 exposure. Screenshot, Google Maps
Fifth Comox Valley school reports COVID-19 exposure

Exposure at Aspen Park in Comox was reported for Feb. 22

Cumberland Brewery is looking to expand its patio space temporarily for the summer. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland Brewery looks for temporary patio expansion

Move would allow business to spread customers outside in summer months

School District 71’s final budget for this school year showed more revenue from distance learning students but less from traditional classroom registration. Record file photo
Comox Valley Schools’ budget grant almost $5.5 million higher than planned

Increase came from a boost in distributed learning rather traditional registration

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read