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Syria Development Centre

Local, Ethical and Effective Development

Our aim is to empower local communities and institutions through investing in local resources and human capital. We strive to foster well-informed, well-designed, well-implemented, and sustainable development initiatives in Syria.


1. Knowledge Management: Focus on the role of research in informing evidence-based policy design tailored to local contexts.

2. Institutional Entrepreneurship: Support efforts of building the capacity of local institutions to lead development initiatives effectively.

3. Data Management and GIS: Support data collection, analysis, and geographical information systems (GIS) for informed decision-making.


Geographic Location

We cover Syria, neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and the diaspora.

Thematic experience

| Human Resources for Health 

| Community Mental Health



This mixed-methods study delves into the medical education and health professional training (MEHPT) system in non-government controlled northwest Syria, against a backdrop of over a decade of armed conflict that has seen healthcare facilities and workers targeted. The conflict has led to a fragmented MEHPT system operating under a 'hybrid kinetic model' developed in response to the division between government-controlled and non-government areas. The research, conducted between September 2021 and May 2022, involved a comprehensive stakeholder analysis, expert consultations, focus groups, semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, and validation workshops. It identified a three-layer MEHPT system supported by 12 academic institutions, 7 local governance authorities, and 12 NGOs, with external NGOs and donors at the top, followed by under-resourced internal governance, and local academic bodies at the base. Despite facing governance, institutional, individual, and political challenges, there are opportunities for MEHPT to serve as a peace-building pillar. The study suggests a need for further research to enhance the role of internal governance and build trust among stakeholders, proposing the formalization of efforts, power shift to internal governance, and long-term sustainable partnerships to strengthen the fragile and polarized MEHPT system.


The protracted conflict in Syria has severely impacted the health sector, leading to over 70% of healthcare workers (HCWs) leaving and those remaining facing perilous conditions with limited resources in a devastated healthcare system. This scenario is particularly acute in non-government-controlled areas (NGCAs), where HCWs have experienced significant disruptions to their education and training, with few opportunities for continuation. The manuscript discusses initiatives in northwest Syria aimed at supporting both undergraduate and postgraduate education for physicians and non-physician HCWs. Challenges to HCW education in the region are categorized into organizational issues, such as governance and funding; programmatic barriers, including lack of accreditation and insufficient teaching resources; and healthcare system problems like politicization and ongoing violence. The conclusion highlights the importance of local strategies and dedicated funding to retain HCWs and support their return in the post-conflict reconstruction phase.

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The study provides a comprehensive analysis of the profound effects of the decade-long armed conflict in Syria on medical education and health professionals’ training (MEHPT), highlighting how the conflict has led to the politicization and division of MEHPT into two distinct geopolitical contexts: government-controlled areas (GCAs) and non-government-controlled areas (NGCAs). Through a mixed-methods systematic review of literature spanning from 2011 to 2021, the research identified significant themes such as attacks on MEHPT facilities and personnel, the emergence of innovative educational strategies, and various challenges within the sector. The findings, based on 70 selected citations from a pool of 5710, underscore the necessity for international and regional academic collaboration to develop educational platforms that leverage innovative approaches like online learning and peer training. These efforts aim to bolster the resilience and capacity of the health workforce in areas afflicted by conflict, addressing both immediate needs and long-term health system and policy issues.

Globally, a record number of people are affected by humanitarian crises caused by conflict and natural disasters. Many such populations live in settings where epidemiological transition is underway. Following the United Nations high level meeting on non-communicable diseases, the global commitment to Universal Health Coverage and needs expressed by humanitarian agencies, there is increasing effort to develop guidelines for the management of hypertension in humanitarian settings. The objective was to investigate the prevalence and incidence of hypertension in populations directly affected by humanitarian crises; the cascade of care in these populations and patient knowledge of and attitude to hypertension. A literature search was carried out in five databases. Grey literature was searched. Sixty-one studies were included in the narrative synthesis. They reported on a range of crises including the wars in Syria and Iraq, the Great East Japan Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and Palestinian refugees. There were few studies from Africa or Asia (excluding Japan). Most of the studies had a high risk of bias due to methods used in the diagnosis of hypertension and in the selection of study populations. Hypertension is seen in a range of humanitarian settings and the burden can be considerable.

Excess body weight causes 4 million deaths annually across the world. The number of people affected by humanitarian crises stands at a record high level with 1 in 95 people being forcibly displaced. These epidemics overlap. Addressing obesity is a post-acute phase activity in non-communicable disease management in humanitarian settings. Information is needed to inform guidelines and timing of interventions. The objective of this review was to explore the prevalence of overweight and obesity in populations directly affected by humanitarian crises; the cascade of care in these populations and perceptions of patients with overweight and obesity. Literature searches were carried out in five databases. Grey literature was identified. The population of interest was non-pregnant, civilian adults who had experience of humanitarian crises (armed conflict, complex emergencies and natural disasters). All study types published from January 1st, 2011, were included. Fifty-six reports from forty-five studies were included. Prevalence estimates varied widely across the studies and by subgroups. Studies were heterogenous.  Increasing adiposity was seen over time, in older adults and in women. Only six studies were at low risk of bias. Body mass index was the predominant measure used. There were no studies reporting cascade of care. Improved reporting of existing data could provide more accurate estimates. The use of waist circumference would provide useful additional information. Gaps remain in understanding the existing cascade of care. Cultural norms around diet and ideal body size vary.

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Meet Our Partners

Collaborative Efforts

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Aga Khan Development Network

European Union

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Expertise France

King's College London


American University of Beirut

Multi Aid Programs

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Idlib Health Directorate

Nasaem Khair


Contact Us

Syria Development Centre
3rd Floor
86-90 Paul Street
London EC2A 4NE

+44 (0)20 3746 2044

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