The COVID-19 pandemic could not have come at a worse time for Syria. The country’s health care system has already been devastated by nearly ten years of violent conflict, leaving much of the health infrastructure in ruins and health care workers overwhelmed. The health system is not only decimated, however, it is also fractured into four separate and increasingly disconnected health systems which function within Syria’s national borders.
As social phenomena, epidemics and the responses they generate reveal much about a country’s political economy and a state’s relationship with its citizens. In Egypt, the manner in which President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s regime has approached an epidemic of hepatitis C on the one hand and the arrival of the coronavirus on the other illustrate that the politics of healthcare in Egypt are evolving.
During his tenure at AUB, Ghassan Abu Sittah’s work radically transformed the practice of medicine and surgery. As the chair of the plastic surgery department at AUB Medical Center, he singlehandedly redefined the workload of the hospital from a focus on cosmetic surgery to one on reconstructive surgery, with a focus on physical deformities in children and war injuries. His legacy has become a blueprint for a new generation of physicians that he trained and mentored.
This issue of Middle East Report explores the interactions of the body politic with health and medicine and examines the entanglements of physical bodies in the institutional and political processes that govern them. Articles in this issue explore a range of different landscapes and ecologies of politics and health care. In this way, we aim to bring the questions and problems of health and illness into the analysis of geopolitics and political economy, while situating the Middle East in broader global health conversations.