Restoring Deir-ez-Zor’s Lungs

In May 2022, a sandstorm blanketed parts of Eastern Syria. Dust storms are a serious threat to health affecting the heart, lungs and nervous system.  Dust affects pregnant women impacting childhood development.   Without protection, dust can enter the mouth, nose, eyes, and the lungs. Elderly people, children, and people with respiratory illnesses such as asthma are the most at risk from sandstorms. 

The world is suffering from critical climate change outcomes. Syria is dealing with a complex and dynamic humanitarian crisis, inflation, poverty, and is also immensely affected by the climate change. 

Climate change has exacerbated the situation affecting agriculture, infrastructure, and, most importantly, people.  Changes in the weather patterns can be attributed to climate change. Syria has experienced a severe drought in many areas, including the sand and dust storms, considered among the most common natural hazards. Heat waves and low rainfall affects directly affect crops and cattle, the main livelihood sources for many families living across Syria. 

The sandstorm sent many people in Deir-ez-Zor to Al-Assad Hospital, which is the only functioning hospital in the area. In 2021, Medair provided the hospital, which lacked basic equipment, with emergency equipment and rehabilitated the Covid-19 WARD. Previously, patients could not be treated for a respiratory disease because of lack of oxygen.

The Covid-19 isolation centre in Deir-ez-Zor’s hospital. Medair rehabilitated and equipped the centre in 2021 responding to the COVID-19 epidemic.

From right to left: Jamal, Health Officer in Deir-ez-Zor, Ritham, Chief of Nursing in Deir-ez-Zor Hospital, Rabeh, The director of the construction office in the Hospital.

Medair team went on a visit to the hospital after the storm subsided. There, we met Ritham, Chief of Nursing, in Deir-ez-Zor’s hospital. We asked her about situation during the storm, she proudly said: “We saved everyone, 400 people, we saved them all.” 

“We were ready since the early morning to receive people with breathing difficulties due to the sandstorm that hit Deir-ez-Zor.” Ritham told us. 

 “We checked all the oxygen sockets, filled in the cylinders, and got ready to receive patients. Not long after that, people suffering from the outcomes of the storm were coming in. We received 400 patients with respiratory conditions.” 

“The situation would’ve been catastrophic if the oxygen station wasn’t installed last year. This station is a milestone to your organisation. It helped us save everyone.” 

An Infant in the incubator being fed with oxygen directly from the oxygen network in the hospital.

We walked around the hospital and entered the neonatal intensive unit ward with its incubators. 

“A year ago, this infant incubator used to be fed with oxygen through cylinders. Usually, these cylinders are not filled properly, which reflects a shortage in oxygen for these incubators and inflects danger on the infants.” Dr Jamal, health officer in Deir-ez-Zor, said.  “Now things are different, the incubators are connected directly to the oxygen network. No need for the oxygen cylinders anymore.” 

As walked up the stairs, we noticed excessive damage on the edges of the steps.  

The director of the construction office in the hospital, Rabeh, explained what caused this 

“This damage is caused by dragging the oxygen cylinders up the stairs. The station not only supplied the hospital with enough oxygen, but it also saved the costs of labour for staff to carry the cylinders to multiple floors every day. No more damage to the hospital facility. This project changed the hospital entirely.” 

Since Medair rehabilitated the hospital, approximately 3000 people received oxygen treatment.  It is important to note that this hospital receives patients from Deir-ez-Zor, Ar-Raqqa and their surrounding area covering at least 1 million individuals. Clinics and SARC ambulances come to get their oxygen cylinders filled in regularly and for free, further extending the scope of the project.  


 In Syria, Medair’s work is made possible by the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, UNOCHA, Swiss Agency of Development and Cooperation (SDC), Swiss Solidarity, SlovakAid and generous private donors like you. 

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organization.