Thursday, 27 July 2017


 Dr. Rola Hallam:

 "One of the things that's done the Syria crisis such a disfavour is calling it a civil war. Because this isn't half the population killing the other half. What we have is state-sponsored murder and oppression, that was in response to people going out on the street, calling for freedom and dignity. And so it's actually a war on civilians. And it's a war on civilian structures, and it's had at its heart the targetting of doctors, and aid workers, and health care. And you guys know about presidents trying to destroy health care, right?

 Physicians For Human Rights have been documenting this since the beginning of the war in 2011, documenting nearly 500 attacks on health care facilities. Some of them are indiscriminate, but actually they say this has been part of a systemic attack on health care, and murder and torture of health care workers, so actually using it as a weapon of war. And it's decimated our health care system, and that basically means we've got children dying of preventable diseases like pneumonia, or treatable diseases. It's women who are now giving birth without health care attendance. It means we don't have the anesthesia we need to perform surgery.

 This is such a big problem for all of us. This isn't just a problem for Syria. And by that I mean that the targetting of health care workers - like this is protected by international norms, right? And when we allow that to occur, then when it breaks for one, it breaks for all. Does that mean that your health care facilities will be a legitimate target in any war that you may be involved in? It's a really dangerous precedent to set, and the fact that it's destroying our health care means we're going to become like Liberia and Sierra Leone. We're going to become exporters of disease, and viruses know no borders.

 In every crisis, the first responders are the people who are affected. It's the affected community. So my family, like many others, turned our houses into warehouses we could distribute this aid from. Then, as the crisis grew, and engulfed the whole country,  it became obvious these little efforts were no longer sufficient. So we coalesced, and started to form new charities, and its the local humanitarians, it's the local doctors, nurses, and aid workers, that do the majority of the aid work in Syria. A group called Local2Global* said that 75% of the humanitarian work in Syria is being done by Syrian charities. That's amazing, but what is less amazing is that we get less than 1% of the humanitarian aid budget.

 You start with pulling your hair out, and being frustrated and angry that this is still happening. That weekend [19-20 November 2016], five hospitals were bombed out of existence, including the children's hospital. Imagine, it had been bombed six times before, a children's hospital. I was so livid and furious. We'd been spending the last few years rebuilding, and helped to build six hospitals in Syria. And so I wanted to do something that everyone else could get behind, because I knew that there were so many people who were feeling this frustration, and that was how the People's Convoy idea came. We planned to crowdfund, to rebuild an an entire children's hospital. And we wanted to do it the week before Christmas, in ten days, and we wanted to take the whole equipment for the hospital across from London, across Europe, to Syria, and we did that. 5000 people from around the world. This wasn't just me, it was a global collective effort. It was 30 organisations that came together to endorse the campaign, and it was 5000 people from ten countries that raised $320,000 in 12 days. Enough to rebuild the hospital and keep it going for six months. It goes to show how much we can achieve when we work together, and can channel these emotions we have in a positive proactive way.

 At CanDo, we believe people are the biggest superpower. We just need to have a way to harness that collective energy and resources. That is why we are using crowdfunding, and we've just set up a crowdfunding platform, the first to provide humanitarian aid in war zones. We're calling you, the engaged citizens of the world, the global humanitarians. Through this platform, we're going to connect you to humanitarian organisations working in war zones, so that you guys can know exactly where your money is going, and you can trust that it's going to these trusted and impactful local humanitarian organisations, so that together we can provide this health care, and save many more lives.

 I think that's the way to do it, because the big NGOs are so bureaucratic, and slow to move, and they make us feel really detached from the issues, and it feels really disengaging and disempowering to just hand your money over when you've no idea where it goes.

 This way, you can connect, but also choose which project you want to support. The beauty of local humanitarians is they know the community really well, and they know what's needed and how to get it there, and they are creative, because they're the ones who are there in the most need. So to give you an example, there is a ceasefire across much of Syria, but there are still, and most people don't know this, about a million people who are besieged. Literally, like a medieval siege tactic, being slowly starved to death. So besieged Damascus is one of these areas where there's about 400,000 people being slowly starved to death. So one of our local partners has been working over the last couple of years to grow mushrooms, which we call the meat of the poor. So they've been working to see if they can get them to germinate and grow, and they've managed to do that, so that's one of the campaigns we're currently running. For less than $15,000, that is going to feed 800 people in a sustainable way. We're going to teach them how to grow their own mushrooms, so they can feed themselves when there is no other fresh food source there. So they have that ability to provide something really effective, and really efficient, and I think that's how we can all make a difference to people in crisis."


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