Sulaf’s story: the battle to stay healthy in Syria

© Ibrahim Malla/IFRC

© Ibrahim Malla/IFRC

When you think of the health risks posed by Syria’s conflict, you probably picture dramatic injuries caused by bullets and bombs. But many people are struggling to cope with long-term conditions. Across Syria, people face pain and danger as health services collapse. 

Teenager Sulaf and her 7-year-old sister Hiba are waiting at the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) children’s clinic in Dwailaa, Rural Damascus. The girls are diabetic, and waiting to get their insulin.

Sulaf, 15, has been having problems with her eyesight too, and her family are concerned. Then the girls’ mother is given some shocking news.  She says: “The doctor said that Sulaf’s optic nerve is damaged, and the cause is the high degree of her diabetes”. More

Changing lives in the Balkans after floods

Near Brcko district,  Bosnia and Herzegovina, two weeks after the floods -  ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

Near Brcko district, Bosnia and Herzegovina, two weeks after the floods – ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

Having never visited or worked in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’d always associated the Balkan nation with the Bosnian war during the mid-1990s and the horrific events of Srebrenica.

Yet this is a remarkable country. It boasts rolling green hills, a diverse culture, a rich history, a wonderful cuisine and an extremely hospitable population.

Bosnians speak proudly of their natural resources, including the abundance of clean water. The very thought of purchasing bottled water is simply not up for discussion.

In May, however, the famous rivers of the Sava, Drina and Bosna caused havoc. They normally wind their way through the country providing much needed natural irrigation to agriculture, but on this occasion they burst their banks following unprecedented rainfall.


Ebola: the data behind the disease

Ebola-nurse-blog-IIIThe Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 2,400 lives across West Africa since it began in March.

One particularly striking fact is that nearly half (47 per cent) of the 4,963 cases across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have come in the three weeks before 13 September, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It’s a clear sign that the outbreak is getting worse. Aid agencies, including the Red Cross, are stretched to the limit and desperately need more support.

In this blog, we take a look at the data behind the disease to see how Ebola has hit countries in West Africa.*


Despair and hope in conflict-hit Iraq

In Iraq, people forced from their homes by ongoing violence find shelter where they can – from motorway underpasses to half-built warehouses. But the Red Cross and Red Crescent are bringing vital help.

people shelter under a concrete bridge

People shelter under a bridge in Dohuk. ©ICRC/Saleh Dabbakeh

Women and children shelter behind a brick wall

Women and children at an unfinished warehouse in Khanik. © ICRC/Saleh Dabbakeh


Ebola outbreak: ‘If we don’t help, who will?’

Ebola-nurse-blogIf I am honest, I have stopped looking at the tallies of the dead. Numbers don’t show you what Ebola is really doing to these communities.

But I see the fear and misinformation it spreads. The orphans it leaves in its wake. The 120 health workers who have died while trying to help patients, in countries that already have some of the lowest doctor-patient ratios in the world.

When I first arrived in Sierra Leone six weeks ago, I travelled with the local Red Cross to the infection ‘hot zone’ near the Guinea and Liberia borders.

The volunteers were tired but motivated. Someone asked them: “Why volunteer to manage dead bodies?” A volunteer quickly answered: “If we don’t do it, who will?”


Iraq: Exhaustion on the road to safety

People are given goods including bread and nappies

©Stacy Ragan / American Red Cross / IFRC

The Iraqi village of Faysh Khabur has become a destination for thousands of terrified people fleeing the country’s lethal violence. Here people cross into the safer region of Kurdistan, so the village often marks the end of one stage in a desperate journey.

But Kurdistan’s new arrivals still face huge problems and an uncertain future. More

Video: South Sudan stands on the brink of catastrophe

Ordinarily, Achoul Biramwould has her hair plaited or covered in a colourful head scarf befitting ‘a woman of standing’. Not today and not for the foreseeable future.

For three months now, Achoul has had her hair shorn to a close crop, in mourning after the death of her husband.

“When the fighting broke out, my husband was killed, but we managed to escape into the bush where we had nothing to eat but grass. Just like this,” Achoul says, pointing at sprouts of green leaves close to her feet.


Surgery in Gaza: Saving lives amid the chaos

Five men sat on a bench

David Nott (second from left) with colleagues. ©ICRC

When fighting brought death and misery to Gaza this summer, British surgeon David Nott performed emergency surgery on those caught up in the violence. He saw operations carried out on hallway floors, and dying children brought in without their parents. He also witnessed the power of the Red Cross to give vital help when it’s needed most.

David knows exactly what conflict and disaster can do to the human body. He has worked during emergencies in Bosnia, Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere. This summer, he travelled to Gaza for three weeks to work for the International Committee of the Red Cross, mainly at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

During lulls in the fighting, the hospital could be extremely quiet. But at other times patients streamed in with shrapnel wounds and injuries from falling buildings. A shortage of space meant they were laid down for surgery on floors and tabletops, sometimes within a couple of feet of each other. About half of those operated on died. More