Open Hospitals. Pope Francis donates ten ventilators to support COVID-19 emergency in Syria

Date 24.04.2020

The Congregation for the Eastern Churches has set up an emergency fund responding to the urging of the Holy Father not to abandon those who are suffering, especially the poorest, during the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.

On behalf of Pope Francis were donated ten ventilators that will be installed in the three health facilities supported by the project "Open Hospitals" conceived in 2016 thanks to the initiative of Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, and in partnership with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The Congregation announced the initiative on Saturday, April 18, 2020, in an official letter: "Thanks to the active collaboration of the CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) – PMP (Pontifical Mission for Palestine) central offices both in New York and in Canada, as well as their local offices, and in constant connection with the other Agencies that compose the ROACO (Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali).

In the past, ROACO has already supported the three hospitals, two in Damascus and one in Aleppo, that are part of AVSI's Open Hospitals project to provide healthcare to the poorest in Syria. Since 2017, more than 35,000 Syrians have received free medical treatment. These ten ventilators represent a real effort to support a health system that is collapsing after more than nine years of war.

On March 13, Syria's council of ministers imposed a country lockdown, ten days before the first case of COVID-19 was officially confirmed. Hospitals have begun to prepare. In recent weeks, doctors and staff working in the three hospitals have received training on how to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and on how to inform patients.

"With the war, two-thirds of the health care workers have left the country," says Cardinal Mario Zenari. "The spread of COVID-19 would be a disaster of gigantic proportions."

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