Syria’s Medical and Humanitarian Nightmare: Interview with Dr. Zaher Sahloul

Since their days as medical school classmates, Bashar al-Assad and Zaher Sahloul have followed rather different paths: one became a war criminal; the other, a humanitarian advocate.

Dr. Sahloul is the immediate past president of and a senior advisor to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a humanitarian and advocacy organization that provides medical relief to Syrians and Syrian refugees. Last year, SAMS served 2.5 million patients in five different countries. (The organization’s vital work is featured in the recent documentary film 50 Feet from Syriawhich is available on Netflix.)

Dr. Sahloul is also the founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria, a coalition of 14 US-based humanitarian organizations working in Syria. He is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is a practicing physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has written about the medical and humanitarian crisis in Syria for Foreign Policy and the Huffington Post, among other outlets.

I conducted this interview with Dr. Sahloul for the Middle East Dialogues series produced by the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies on April 26 — less than 48 hours before the Assad regime’s airstrike on the MSF-supported pediatric hospital in Aleppo that killed dozens of patients and doctors, including one of the city’s last remaining pediatricians.

Go here to volunteer with the Syrian American Medical Society (you do not need to be a doctor or medical professional) and here to donate to the organization.

Captive Economy: The Pharmaceutical Industry and the Israeli Occupation

One of Israel’s favorite selling points, in its campaign to rebrand itself and divert attention from its ongoing theft of Palestinian land by means of ethnic cleansing, military control and apartheid policies, is its claim to world leadership in medicine. The problem with this line of apartheid PR is, of course, the failure to mention the control the state of Israel has over the Palestinian healthcare system.

Captive Economy, a new report by Who Profits investigates the involvement of Israeli and multinational pharmaceutical industries in the occupation of Palestinian land.

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NHS reform: Private health industry lobbying

The government’s proposals to radically reform the NHS are being strongly opposed by doctors, nurses, unions and a majority of the public. Who then is behind them, pushing for these reforms? This short film by SpinWatch takes you on a tour of the offices of just some of the private healthcare companies, lobbying agencies and think tanks surrounding Parliament, all of which are circling the NHS, wanting a much bigger slice of its £100billion budget.

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Should we call it murder?

The following address was delivered by Stephen Lewis – former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and one of today’s most important global health advocates – on the eve of World AIDS Day at the Yale School of Public Health. 

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been the international financial armada in the battle against the three diseases. The collapse of the next round of Global Fund grants, known as Round 11, is the most serious, catastrophic setback in the Fund’s decade of existence. Hiding behind the banner of the financial crisis, the donor countries have clearly decided that if budgetary cuts are to be made, the Global Fund can be among the first to go.

It’s terribly important to recognize the moral implications. It’s not just the fact that people will die; it’s the fact that those who have made the decision know that people will die. How does that get rationalized? How does that get dealt with in the inner sanctums of development ministries and cabinet discussions? What in God’s name do they say to each other?

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Protests against EU-India ‘Free Trade’ Deal

Activists fear a free trade agreement could risk lives that depend on affordable drugs.

India is one of the world’s largest producers of generic drugs, but a proposed Free Trade Agreement with the European Union could curb the supply of affordable drugs to millions of people. Many fear that multinational pharmaceutical companies will be the only ones allowed to produce and sell them. The proposed deal will affect millions of HIV positive patients in poor countries, who depend on generic drugs for their survival.

Al Jazeera’s Prerna Suri reports from New Delhi.