“Open hospitals” is a project created by the Associazione Volontari per il Servizio Internazionale (AVSI) and was prompted by Card. Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, to respond to the harsh humanitarian emergency caused the crisis in Syria.
“In Syria more people are dying due to the impossibility of being treated, than in the battle field”, denounced the Nuncio the previous year. Therefore, the project’s main goal was to strengthen three non-profit private hospitals (the Saint Louis Hospital in Aleppo, the French Hospital and the Italian Hospital in Damascus), by renovating the water, electrical and heating systems; purchasing new medical equipment; providing free medical services to those most vulnerable and to war victims; and offering technical training for Syrian personnel.
The project, sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is financed through: the 8x1000 Fund of the Italian Episcopal Conference, the Papal Foundation, the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic Foundation, ROACO - through the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Misereor (the German Episcopal Organization for Development and Cooperation), the US Episcopal Conference, Caritas Spain, the Vatican Gendarmerie - through the St. Michael Archangel Foundation, the CHA (Catholic Health Association - USA), the Third Pillar Foundation – International and the Human Progress Foundation. In addition to these loans there are extra donations from individuals and Italian companies and contributions collected through the 5x1000 Fund.
To date, the Syrian crisis appears to have no end, with over 13 million people in need of aid and over 11 million who do not have access to health care (more than 2 million in Aleppo alone, more than 1 million in Damascus), 40% of which are children. Life expectancy has fallen in Syria by around 15 and 10 years, for men and women respectively. Health facilities have often been the target of aerial bombardment. In addition, they have suffered the lack of energetic resources for the functioning of medical equipment, the lack of qualified personnel as well as contributions to meet the health needs of the poor who cannot afford the care they need.
Card. Mario Zenari spoke about the project to the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana.