This World Humanitarian Day

This World Humanitarian Day, we reflect on our commitment to the humanitarian values that inspire our work – training medical professionals to provide safe, skilled surgical care in countries impacted by conflict and catastrophe.

Our flagship Hostile Environment Surgical Training (HEST) course continues to provide the best in surgical training to those who need it most. Using innovative teaching materials such as our prosthetic hearts, kidneys, arteries and veins, our world-class trauma surgery modules are brought to life by the remarkable, talented training faculty who deliver it. We are so grateful to our team of trainers who give up their time to share knowledge with doctors around the world. We know they also learn as much from them in return.

In addition to training surgeons, we have developed an anaesthesia module, expanding our focus from the surgeon to the wider – any equally important – operating theatre team. As with surgery, conflict presents unique challenges for anaesthetic practice including severe blast injuries, blood loss and resource constraints.

I was inspired to start our Foundation by a single, grainy photograph of David.

In a room in a hospital in Aleppo, lit solely by the steady beam of a projector, he was discussing cases with a group of Syrian doctors at the end of a day of operating. I started thinking how that life-saving training delivered by David in Aleppo, built on decades of frontline experience, could be brought to hundreds, perhaps thousands, more doctors.

David’s unwavering connection with the doctors of northwest Syria goes back a decade and when the devastating earthquake hit southern Türkiye and northwest Syria in February, we immediately started discussing with local partners and colleagues what they were seeing and how we could help. It rapidly became clear that thousands of survivors were left with life-altering injuries in need of surgical treatment and rehabilitative care.

Thanks to expert navigation of local permissions by our partners, we were able to run a joint teaching and operating mission with Action for Humanity in Aqrabat Hospital, Idlib. The Action for Humanity team saw 300 patients in clinic before completing 60 surgeries the following week. Above the operating theatres, we equipped 35 Syrian doctors with the surgical techniques they need to treat complex injuries inflicted by the earthquake or ongoing conflict.

Ninety percent of our training faculty on the mission were Syrian and based in the northwest, therefore able to better understand local health system challenges and teach the course in Arabic.

Sustainability is vitally important to us; we want surgical knowledge to be embedded in communities to the extent that it is self-perpetuating and we are no longer needed. Until it is, we’ll keep returning as long as we are needed, No Matter What.

As a small charity, we are able to deliver so much more in terms of training and value for our donors’ money by partnering with other humanitarian organisations like Action for Humanity. Our training partners are diverse in scale and size. We delivered training in Moldova with the World Health Organisation and for Yemeni surgeons with Médecins Sans Frontières. We are excited to collaborate with MedGlobal in the coming months, and in Ukraine, were proud to partner with our friends at UOSSM, a charity initially formed to provide relief and assistance to Syrian civilians affected by the deadly conflict there.

Unfortunately, risks for humanitarians and attacks on healthcare have increased in recent years.

Last week, Physicians for Human Rights reported that 1014 attacks have been perpetrated against Ukraine’s hospitals, health workers, and other medical infrastructure since February 2022. Recent Elrha research also revealed that attacks on Syrian health facilities have deterred people from accessing health services and seeking help when needed.

Every hospital bombed, every healthcare worker killed, denies people vital care and destabilises communities both physically and psychologically. These atrocities are under-reported and we are honoured to support the campaigning efforts of Action for Sama, seeking to raise awareness of and ensure accountability for attacks on healthcare.

We believe in safe, skilled surgical care for all and stand with the communities we serve, No Matter What.

Elly Nott, Co-Founder and CEO