The Lancet and the American University of Beirut have together established the concept for a Commission on Syria: Health in Conflict. Co-chaired by Harvard FXB’s Dr. Jennifer Leaning, the aim of the Commission will be to describe, analyse and interrogate the calamity before us through the lens of health and wellbeing. With this Commission, we aim to examine five priority areas:

  1. Health of people inside Syria
  2. Health of refugees and host communities
  3. Health systems, which includes the pillars of health professionals, delivery, infrastructure, and transition to rebuilding
  4. Challenges of the international response to the crisis, particularly health-related international law violations and humanitarian aid design and delivery
  5. Policy options and next steps, including those that can strengthen the role of global health in conflict and health more broadly

Syrian Data Hub

Harvard FXB serves as one of two key global data hubs for the synthesis, organization, and archiving of a large volume of data from hundreds of sources (paper-based and digital), text and audio-visual, traditional and new (apps and social media) from around the world to learn from and act on the lessons of the Syrian War.

The Syrian war is one of the most data-rich conflicts in modern times and the abundance of evidence in Syria can be overwhelmingly persuasive if we have the capacity to collect and translate it. The FXB Center is collaborating with the Union of Medical Care and Relief Services (UOSSM) and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). Our aim is to show how devastating and enduring the effects of war are on societies and to underscore how essential it is that the UN and global powers adopt robust early warning mechanisms with forceful response strategies.

In total, the FXB Center has access to upwards of 12 to 15 million patient interactions from the past five years of the conflict. We plan to combine this clinical and healthcare delivery data with information culled from a wide range of sources, including publications, UN and NGO datasets, news and social media. Other large population and weapons impact data sets are also being made available and we are collaborating with colleagues at Boston University to include a geo-spatial analysis of destruction of cultural heritage sites. The end product will include a searchable, interactive data visualization tool with GIS overlays, geo-locations and time-stamps that can illustrate the medical and societal impact of the Syrian conflict on the populations throughout the region. This data visualization tool will allow us to discern patterns and trends that are not now apparent and so will also prompt new questions, new lines of inquiry and analysis.

The FXB Center will work with key local partners including the Syrian American Medical Association (SAMS) and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) to answer key questions that will help optimize clinical care: What is being delivered, where and how? What clinical protocols are being adhered to, what needs strengthening? What is the burden of disease? How does it defer by time, person and place? How best can the gaps between demand and supply be met?

The Center’s interdisciplinary expertise in medicine, data science, digital health and data visualization will be employed to deliver two sets of deliverables:

1) Data visualization tool for policy makers (with real-time analytic capabilities)

Dynamic epidemiological interrogation tools (successfully implemented by our teams at the world’s largest mass gatherings) for:

  • Resource allocation
  • Inventory
  • Clinical epidemiology and outbreak monitoring
  • Clinical practice observation and optimization

Prototypes can be accessed here.

2) Meta Repository for Research and Human Rights Advocacy

The analyses will contribute to the overarching AUB- Lancet Commission on Syria, studying the impact of war on medicine and public health in the region. Our findings will make a significant contribution to the documentation of war atrocities, to the ongoing clinical programs being planned by the international humanitarian enterprise, and to the rebuilding needs of the healthcare workforce in Syria.

The repository will archive healthcare related news articles, academic publications, databases, social media reports, and photos, videos and audio clips currently stored on the personal devices of hundreds of providers. These data will be searchable by theme, time, location and customizable tags, making valuable data available – when the time is right – for justice and reconciliation.

Research and Key Publications The FXB Center ’s work on the Syrian refugee crisis grows directly out of the Center’s long-standing efforts to bring the perspective of human rights to populations affected by disasters and war. Since 2013, Harvard FXB faculty experts from law, medicine and the humanities have traveled frequently to the region (to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Greece) to highlight the impact of war (and inaction) on children and families, now and in the future, as the conflict rages on with no end in sight.



Center faculty have launched a two-semester long academic exploration of the challenges facing the humanitarian response to the Crisis. Gathering scholars, practitioners, and thought leaders from across the Harvard and Boston communities, the Seminar discusses challenges to the promote refugee well-being, spanning a wide range of topics including the documentation of attacks on medical infrastructure, to studying the impact on health systems in the neighboring health communities to the challenges of integration in Europe, and the right to work.

Read more:

The Lancet–American University of Beirut Commission on Syria: a new role for global health in conflict and a call for papers

American University of Beirut 

Weaponization of Health

Read about a recent FXB/SAMS panel: Stories from Aleppo: Medical Workers under Siege.

Read the FXB statement on the founding of the Commission.