As we deal with those seeking shelter at our borders, it’s hard not to think of another humanitarian crisis unfolding half a world away that has prompted the United Nations to open a war crimes investigation.
Shocking pictures surfaced recently of starving children – desperate, unimaginable pictures to comfortable western eyes – children who along with their parents are stuck between warring sides in Syria. The first aid convoy in three months finally reached the Western Syrian town of Madaya a few days ago. It’s been reported that about 40,000 people have been isolated there, cut off by their government’s forces and allied fighters from Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah militia.
They’ve lacked food, and medical supplies. The Washington Post reports that residents have claimed they’ve been so desperate they’ve resorted to eating leaves and cats to stay alive. Much has been made of what’s happening inside Syria – but million of others with urgent needs have also fled to nearby countries like Lebanon and Turkey.
Donald Sewell, director of Baylor Scott & White Health Faith in Action Initiatives, has been working trying to get medical supplies to the region.
“We’re glad to be involved in a small way, but a significant way,” Sewell says.
The organization first sent a 40-foot container crammed full of medical supplies to Lebanon, where it was received by a humanitarian organization. The supplies solely went Syrian refugees inside Lebanon who were in need.
“Most people don’t realize that hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees now live in Lebanon. That would be like in the United States, with 300-plus million people, to have an extra 50 million people become refugees living on your land.”
The groups has also worked in cooperation with other aid organizations in Southeast Turkey and Hungary.
Their most recent load went to Turkey. Sewell says they stripped a 737 jetliner of its seats and overhead bins. They filled it completely with medical supplies. There were beds, stretchers, exam tables, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, blood pressure cuffs, medical carts, medical texts and a number of perishable items like antiseptics and gauze.
So far the organization has not been able to get similar aid into the Syrian borders. If they did get materials into Syria it would be mainly nutritional supplements and baby formula, Sewell says.
“We hope someday to find the right channels to go around the military issues, the governmental issues, and work with humanitarian organizations (in Syria),” Sewell says. “We look forward to the opportunity to have green lights and be able to – in essence as we would say in Baptist’s terminology – to minister to people of that level of dire fiscal circumstance.”
If you are interested in helping with Baylor Scott & White Health Faith in Action Initiatives, please contact Donald Sewell at donald dot sewell at bswhealth.org