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Chronic Disease Must Be Addressed In Syria Crisis

“In the midst of a bloody civil war, the biggest killer in Syria may not be the one you expect: chronic disease,” Jerusha Murugen, a research associate for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in CNN’s “Global Public Square” (GPS) blog. “For many thousands of Syrians who struggle to access medical treatment in a war with no end in sight, everyday medical conditions have now become a matter of life or death,” she states, adding, “Zaher Sahloul, president of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), estimates that as many as 200,000 Syrians have died from chronic conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and respiratory and heart conditions, as a result of lack of access to drugs and treatment, double the number of Syrians killed by combat operations.” She adds, “The United Nations now estimates that over half a million Syrians will require chronic disease treatment for the remainder of 2013.”

“And while daily atrocities and war crimes have gained international attention, most recently August’s horrific chemical weapons attack, Médecins Sans Frontières … stresses that victims who survive combat operations more frequently become ‘silent casualties,’ succumbing instead to previously manageable chronic illnesses as a result of calculated attacks on Syria’s primary health care system and pharmaceutical industry,” Murugen continues. “Syrians are now facing a critical shortage of medicines, particularly for chronic illnesses — WHO surveys indicate that basic supplies, such as insulin for Syria’s 40,000 juvenile diabetes patients, are no longer available,” she notes, adding, “While international organizations are providing medical aid in the country, the Syrian government has issued stringent policies for such groups, authorizing only Syrian government-approved domestic and international organizations to work in the country.” She concludes, “While finding a solution to Syria’s civil war will continue to be difficult, resolving its chronic disease crisis should not be. With the United Nation’s hands effectively tied, other actors must now act where the international community cannot” (9/30).