The People’s Convoy sets off with medical supplies for Syria

Published 16th December 2016

Rola Hallam, a British-Syrian NHS doctor in London, was horrified last month when the last children’s hospital in the city of Aleppo was destroyed.

“I was devastated. It broke my heart,” says Rola, who has devoted much of her time in recent years to helping set up hospitals in Syria. “And so I wanted to find a way to do something tangible for Syrians and also to say ‘We are here with you.’ Syrians feel so abandoned right now.”

Rola soon came up with an idea: The People’s Convoy, a crowd-funded project that will send trucks of desperately needed medical supplies across Europe to a children’s hospital just outside the city of Aleppo. The project will give a lifeline to the last functioning children’s hospital in Aleppo governorate, which is home to Aleppo city. The hospital expects to use the supplies to treat over 5000 children per month.

The convoy, which will drive items such as stethoscopes and examination tables across 10 countries, will set off from London on 17 December. A coalition of NGOs, including Doctors Under Fire, The Syria Campaign, and Hand in Hand for Syria, have organised the project.

Syria’s hospitals and medics have been repeatedly targeted since the country’s brutal civil war started in 2011. There have been at least 382 attacks on medical facilities since the conflict began and the vast majority have been carried out by Syria’s government, according to Physicians for Human Rights. Doctors still working in the besieged Aleppo city risk being jailed or killed, the Guardian reported this week.

“Syria’s conflict is characterised by the wilful destruction of the country’s health system. This has to stop,” says Leigh Daynes, executive director of Doctors of the World UK.

The conflict has also sparked a huge increase in people who need medical care and a huge shortage of essential drugs and equipment. Around 11.5 million Syrians need healthcare, according to the UN.

“There are pregnant women delivering children on their kitchen floor – if they even have a kitchen floor anymore.There are no antibiotics for treating childhood illnesses, there are no anaesthetics for performing surgeries,” says Rola. “It’s like going back to the dark ages.”

Once the convoy reaches the Turkey-Syria border, the medical supplies will be handed over to the Independent Doctors Association, which works on the ground in Syria and ran the children’s hospital that was destroyed last month. The campaign has raised almost £103,000 so far, surpassing its initial target of £91,400 in just 10 days.

Rola hopes the People’s Convoy can provide a beacon of hope. “I’m a doctor and my passion is providing access to healthcare – I think it’s a human right,” she says.

The People’s Convoy will begin its journey at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London at midday on Saturday 17 December. There will also be a vigil to show solidarity with doctors and nurses in Syria in London’s parliament Square at 2pm.

Photo credit: The People’s Convoy.


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