20 March 2023
Two UK charities are partnering with a Cambridge Emergency Medicine doctor who escaped war-torn Syria as a young medical student and is returning to help hospitals hit by February’s earthquake.
Cambridge Global Health Partnerships (CGHP) and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) are working with Dr Tirej Brimo, an Emergency Medicine doctor at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, to help three hospitals in Syria struggling in the ongoing crisis through an £80,000 fundraising campaign on JustGiving called ‘Together for Northwest Syria Medical Aid’.
Tirej has made contacts with Syrian Clinical Leads on the frontline, key non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and the health directorate in Northwest Syria, who have identified key equipment that would have a massive impact in supporting their health care systems – but is unobtainable in the current climate.
Now earmarked for help is the neurosurgical department at Bab Alhawa Hospital in Northwest Syria, the biggest neurosurgical department in Northwest Syria and the largest brain tumour centre – but it has precious few resources to do the job.
There is a single over-worked plastic surgeon at Aaqrabat Hospital who is one of just three for the whole Northwest region and there is a lack of basic equipment to undertake general surgery at Al-Shefaa Hospital in Afrin, which serves a large population.
Tirej plans to go to Turkey and North West Syria to help with procurement, with oversight and support from CGHP and RCEM, and take photographs and videos to keep supporters up to date.
Tirej, together with fellow members of the RCEM international team, developed their contacts in January when they met with the Syrian Board of Medical Specialities, key NGOs and Idlib health directorate manager in Gazientep to strengthen gaps in medical education in Northwest Syria and discuss Emergency Medicine development.
CGHP director, Evelyn Brealey, said: “We are very glad to be supporting this campaign for Northwest Syria, and to be doing this jointly with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and their international team, who we know well. With Tirej’s determination, our help, and public support, we can support healthcare colleagues dealing with the most difficult of circumstances.”
Andrew Fryer, Head of International at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, added: “This partnership aims to provide the necessary tools for healthcare professionals in Northwest Syria, who are working tirelessly to treat the local population in extremely challenging conditions.
“The public’s contribution towards the purchase of medical equipment will make a significant impact in restoring health and hope to those affected by the earthquake.”
The Syrian campaign is the latest in a series of humanitarian initiatives by Tirej, who arrived in the UK as a refugee in 2013 and graduated as a doctor at St George’s Medical School in London 2017. His gritty determination to become a doctor took him through four countries, four medical schools, 10 cities and 21 homes.
Last spring he used his annual leave to volunteer with a medical team in Ukraine, initially working at two busy border crossings before moving to Lviv city, in Western Ukraine, where he helped to establish a medical clinic near the main train station.
Tirej, who has also volunteered in the Greek islands’ refugee camps multiple times since his graduation as a doctor, said: “Since my graduation as a doctor six years ago, I have been working humbly for the NHS. I also devoted most of my free time and holiday to support those who are going through adversity and displacement. However, following the devastating earthquake, my hometown Afrin and other parts of Syria need my help, and I need people’s help.
“I cannot thank RCEM and CGHP enough for helping me on this journey. 10 years of war has caused significant infrastructural damage in Northwest Syria and left its population in desperate need for humanitarian and medical aid. Following the earthquake in February, the devastating aftermath has escalated these needs significantly. One doctor in Syria has told me that during the earthquake, they relived 10 years of the Syrian war in just two minutes.”
Note to editors:
Dr Tirej Brimo and Evelyn Brealey (CGHP Director) are available for interview. Please arrange through the CUH media office on 07517 133031 or the RCEM press office at email@example.com.
A captioned version of Tirej’s film is available at https://youtu.be/KOpC-7HedBU. An uncaptioned, music-free version is available at https://youtu.be/7vCOIwwf-oE
Cambridge Global Health Partnerships is a charitable programme that inspires and enables people to improve healthcare globally. Working with hospitals, governments and health organisations and using a health partnership model we provide specialist expertise, support shared learning and encourage sustainable change.
This is a two-way process that delivers reciprocal benefits, by involving NHS staff – especially from Cambridge University Hospitals and other NHS care providers in the region, working together with partners in low- and middle-income countries on global health challenges that affect us all.