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Aid / Disasters

Syrian aid: lack of evidence for 'interventions that work', say researchers

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Published: Wednesday, 03 February 2016
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The lack of an evidence base in the donor-funded response to Syrian migrant crisis means finances may be allocated to ineffective interventions, say research workers, who call on funders and policymakers in London for this week's Syrian Donor Conference to insist on evaluation as a condition of aid.

In the fifth year of the Syrian exile crisis, donors and humanitarian agencies still remain unsure about which policies and interventions have been most effective, and continue to trust on a mostly reactive response, say a group of research workers, aid workers and Syrian medical professionals.

Response approaches to date have often been short-runist, sometimes duplicating work and have very little evidence of effectiveness or impact, they say.

As national leadership and UN delegates gather in London today for the Support Syria Donor Conference, members of the Syrian Public Health Network warn that unless aid is provided on condition of evidence-gathering and transparency so funding can be directed to interventions that work, the health, education and livelihoods of exiles will continue to deteriorate.

They caution that Syrians in neighboring countries so much as Lebanon and Jordan - where employment are stretched to breakage point - will suffer the most from ineffective interventions unless governments and NGOs of affluent nations to do more to link allocation of donor finances to evidence.

"A focus on health and health employment is notably absent in the donor conference agenda yet it is a fundamental determinant on the success of education and livelihoods policies," aforesaid Dr Adam Coutts, Cambridge University research worker and member of the Syria Public Health Network.

"What funding there is for exile health care risks disappearing unless governments insist on an evidence basis for aid allocation, similar to that expected in domestic political.

"It is estimated that there are now over 4.3 million Syrian exiles in neighboring frontline countries, and over half these people are under the age of 18. This level of displacement is new and given how short finances are, we need to be sure that programmes work," aforesaid Coutts.

"New ideas and approaches need to be adopted in order to reduce the massive burdens on neighboring frontline states."

Researchers say that the health response should do more to address the alleged 'non-communicable illnesss' which finally cause more deaths: slow, silent killers so much as polygenic disorder, heart illness and, in particular, mental disorders. This means moving towards the development of universal health care systems in the region and building new public health employment.

The calls for more evidence come on the back of an article published last week in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, in which members of the Syria Public Health Network (SPHN) address the response to mental disorders among displaced Syrians.

Clinics in some camps in Turkey and Lebanon report about half of occupants suffering from high levels of psychological distress. nevertheless, galore Syrians in neighboring countries live outside the camps - up to 80% in Jordan, for example - which means cases are reported.

In Lebanon, despite political commitment to mental health, there are just 71 psychiatrists, mostly in Bayrut.

"The implementation of short-run mental health interventions which often lack culturally applicable or much executable assessment tools risk amexploitation finances away from thirster term, evidence based solutions," aforesaid Coutts.

furthermore, a shortage of Syrian mental health professionals - less than 100 prior to the conflict has now fallen to less than 60 - is worsened by some neighboring countries preventing Syrian doctors of any specialism from practising. on with Physicians for Human Rights, SPHN members are career for restrictions to be upraised on practising licenses for displaced Syrian health professionals.

"To date Syrian medical workers in Lebanon and Jordan are a mostly untapped work force who are ready to work and help with the response. nevertheless, due to labour Torah and the dominance of private health service providers it is very difficult if not impossible for them to work legally," aforesaid SPHN member Dr Aula Abbara.

Emerging evidence from the Syrian crisis, as well as evidence from previous conflicts, is pointing to psychological treatments which show some effectiveness:

Pilot studies with exiles in Turkish camps exploitation 'telemental' projects, the delivery of psychiatrical care through telecommunications, suggest that so much techniques are effective in supporting health care professionals on the ground.

The 'teaching recovery techniques' method is designed to boost children's capacity to cope with the psychological aftermath of war. These techniques have been used in communities in the aftermath of major natural disasters and conflicts, and have shown promise.

piece SPHN members caution that adequate testing of these interventions is required, they argue that this is precisely the point: more evidence of what works.

Added Coutts: "A more scientific approach is needful so that precious and progressively scarce fiscal aid is put to the most effective use possible. At the moment, NGOs and governments are not making adequate reference to evidence in crucial health, education and labour market policies for the largest displacement of people since World War II."

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Syrian aid: lack of evidence for 'interventions that work', say researchers
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