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Cablegate: Healthcare in Syria Given a Shot in the Arm By

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0455 1780828
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 260828Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5122
INFO RUCNNAF/NORTH AF NEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000455

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/PPD, NEA/ELA, ECA/PE/V/N/E

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OEXC PGOV PREL SY XF KWMN
SUBJECT: HEALTHCARE IN SYRIA GIVEN A SHOT IN THE ARM BY
INTERNATIONAL VISITOR EXPERIENCES

REF: A) 07 DAMASCUS 903 B) 07 STATE 132266 C) DAMASCUS 304

1. SUMMARY: In less than a year, Syrian program alumni from two
successful International Visitor Leadership Programs (IVLPs) have
generated positive change in healthcare in Syria since their return.
A FY07 single country program on nursing education (ref A) inspired
the seven participants to lobby doctors' organizations and the
Ministry of Health for better training and more respect. The FY08
regional IVLP on breast cancer awareness (ref B) not only led
directly to the first ever march for breast cancer in Syria (ref C)
but also to gatherings around the country at which survivors
publicly advocate for awareness and early detection. Post actively
supports these activities and will use its FY09 program resources to
further support these efforts. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- --
Nurses Form Alliance with U.S. Educated Doctors
--------------------------------------------- --

2. From September 8-29, 2007, seven Syrian nurses drawn from
private hospitals in Syria traveled on a single-country IVLP focused
on nursing education. Upon their return, the nurses immediately
reached out to the Ministries of Health (MoH) and Higher Education
to share the information gained during their program. One of the
nurses presented a proposal to the Syrian Minister of Health to
establish a 911-like emergency call network. The MoH is currently
studying the proposal.

3. In November 2007, the nurses worked with both PD Damascus and
the Al-Andalos Private Hospital to organize a panel discussion
during which they talked about their U.S. experience with 25 nurses
and U.S. graduate physicians. The Head of the Syrian American
Medical Association (SAMA) attended and as a result agreed to extend
membership to nurses and to support their efforts to improve nursing
education and training.

4. Note: Syria boasts a large number of U.S. trained doctors, who
play an active and influential role in Syrian society. Nursing
education is not on par with the level of medical training for
doctors, and these doctors have a vested interest in supporting
better nursing. End note.

5. The connection with SAMA proved invaluable. In May 2008, the
same group of IVP alumni nurses conducted a two-day training
workshop at the Assad University Hospital, Damascus University,
under the patronage of the Minister of Higher Education and in
coordination with SAMA. Four hundred nurses attended.

---------------------------------------------
Breast Cancer: Awareness, Detection, Survival
---------------------------------------------

6. Two members in the Syrian Society for Breast Cancer participated
in the IVLP on breast cancer awareness October 27-November 19, 2007.
The program energized and inspired the two women, who upon their
return to Syria staged the first-ever march for breast cancer
awareness and detection in Syria on April 12, 2008. They have also
organized panel discussions in three separate Syrian cities
(Damascus, Tartous, and Zabadani) to talk about the importance of
awareness and early detection. One of the IVLP participants, a
survivor, has used these forums to speak publicly and personally
about her battle with the disease. She told PDOff she would have
never dared to speak in such a way before her trip to the States.

7. Inspired by similar programs in the United States, the two IVP
alumni worked with their organization and the Syrian Ministry of
Health to start a mobile mammography program. The "mammogram
mobile" will travel to rural areas to bring screening to women who
would otherwise not have access to a hospital or clinic. Mammograms
will be offered at low or no-cost. The Syrian Breast Cancer society
is also working with the MoH to offer free mammograms two days a
month at hospitals and clinics in Damascus and other major cities.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. Healthcare is a significent area of activity for civil society
in Syria. Due to the presence of a large U.S.-trained medical
community with high-level connections to the Syrian regime, Embassy
Damascus finds that there is interest, funding, and a strong
incentive to improve healthcare and support Syrian NGOs working in
this field. Post plans to program a healthcare speaker in FY2009 as
well as an additional SCP, and will nominate Syrian participants for
FY2009 IVLPs on healthcare-related topics.


CORBIN

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