MENTOR in the Middle East – Update

MENTOR in the Middle East – 2018 update

With the population displacement which inevitably stems from the kinds of violence seen in Syria in recent years, the need for emergency & humanitarian intervention grows exponentially. The amount of refugees who fled towards Turkey has reached at least 3 million people according to recent estimates, bringing significant strain and need for adaptation onto the local health systems. In response to this situation, MENTOR has been helping the Turkish government with their efforts to support this population, including setting up migrant health centers to help with a range of conditions including leishmaniasis. Alongside the technical expertise provided in these health centers, large scale Information, Education, & Communication (IEC) programmes utilizing Arabic TV and Radio as well as social media support these interventions by raising awareness of the disease, the symptoms, and preliminary diagnosing among the community, bridging the gaps between daily life and professional treatment. This kind of community outreach and engagement is an incredibly important step in the immediate response to large population movement, especially through urban areas.

MENTOR have supported 16 of these health centers reaching over 650,000 people so far, and have been awarded the 1st year of a 2 year programme providing pharmaceutical treatments to the disease and related conditions, running from September 2017 through until September 2018. Additionally, MENTOR have been collaborating with Turkish Universities, academics and researchers, all helping to research the issue of leishmaniasis in the region, alongside our treatment and education programmes. MENTOR embraces the propensity for pushing the academic forefront alongside real-world response, that the learning possibilities in these contexts are of the utmost importance.

Where possible, MENTOR takes our programmes into the hardest to reach locations, impacting upon the lives of the communities most at risk from the worst impacts of the tropical diseases we specialise in combating. The threat of diseases in these locations is exacerbated by the conditions the affected communities live under. In the example of destabilized Syria, the interruption of a combination of health and public services and the destruction of city buildings has greatly increased the impact of vector-borne disease. For example, leishmaniasis is spread by sandflies which love to breed in the cracks of buildings. The war-torn landscape of certain locations in Syria create perfect breeding grounds for this vector, and as the disease goes untreated due to gaps in health care and access, the reinfection rate within the communities increases, resetting the cycle.

MENTOR have come together with various agencies in Syria, receiving support from the European Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) & the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), & the United Nations Humanitarian Pooled Fund (HPF), “formerly known as Emergency Response Fund”. With the assistance of these partner organisations, MENTOR is able to provide working support to every accessible primary health care facility in the regions we serve, including training health care providers, tools and resources for the facilities, support for case management, and vector borne diseases training. Additionally, the data gathered from our network of delivery partners is being used to map the epidemiology in country, in order to focus and refine all health care responses serving these Syrian communities, and build on previous knowledge to improve future efforts.

The MENTOR programme also extends across the border into Iraq, and has recently been awarded a contract with Medair; our 1st programme in the country. Working with local and international health partners, MENTOR will be providing medical support through diagnosis & treatment in accordance with World Health Organisation protocols.

The following slide show provides examples of the community engagement and leishmaniasis treatment response provided by MENTOR in Syria, including the treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis lesions on the face of a man and a baby.

MENTOR protects the identities of people who may be at-risk.

Local news broadcasting station “Orient News” reported on the battle with Leishmaniasis in Syria on February 13th, 2018: