PoliticalSpeak: the Syrian refugee crisis

What is it like to be living with MS in Syria? #PoliticalSpeak #MSBlog 

“It is hard not to look at a news APP, aggregator site, paper or TV channel and not to be confronted with the horrors of the Syrian refugee crisis at an individual, family, national and supranational level. However, what is more distressing is the UK government’s response to crisis. I am therefore pleased to read this morning that David Cameron is bowing to pressure and appears to be changing his position on the crisis. It never ceases to amaze me how one picture can change the minds and attitudes of millions; I am certain photojournalism is the nudge factor behind Cameron’s change of mind and hopefully heart.”

“The crisis has prompted me to engage in a simple thought exercise that you may want to join me in. If we take a step back and think about what it must be like to be a person with MS living in Syria right now. How are they coping? I can only imagine what it must be like to be wheelchair-dependent in a bomb-ravaged city. What do you do if you need to intermittently self-catheterise yourself and you have run out of catheters? What do you do if you fall and fracture a hip? If you have walking difficulties and reduced mobility and your family needs to flee the country on foot; do you stay behind or go with them? If you have frequent episodes of incontinence, but no access to running water. Yes, there are people in Syria who have MS. Although the prevalence of MS is lower in the middle east, most countries surveyed in the region are seeing an increasing incidence of the disease, particularly amongst women. With the current crisis I wonder how someone is investigated who presents with their first clinical attack suggestive of a clinically isolated syndrome? Access to drugs is becoming increasingly problematic for people with chronic diseases in Syria; I am sure supply chains for DMTs and other symptomatic drugs have been severely disrupted and some parts of the country non-existent.”

“As I reflect on these issues, and others, I simply cannot understand David Cameron’s and our government’s position on the Syrian refugee crisis. Britain, in particular Great Britain, has always been an outwardly looking country. In the past it has taken waves of migrant populations, who have always contributed to the diversity and prosperity of the country. For example, the French Huguenots who transformed Spitalfields and the London rag trade, the Eastern European jewish migrants, the Irish, the Africans, the Asians, the Americans, the Antipodeans, and many other waves of Europeans. The list is a long and illustrious one and an intrinsic part of the history of this country. Testament to this, is the observation that there are over 300 different languages spoken in London. I personally see no reason why Britain should change its long tradition of accepting migrants now;  it goes against the heart of the nation and what made, and makes, this country great.”

“If you have MS and are from Syria, or are still living in Syria, please share your story with us. Let us know how you are coping with your disease and if there is anything we can do to help. We are thinking about you.”

Benamer et al. Frequency and clinical patterns of multiple sclerosis in Arab countries: a systematic review. J Neurol Sci. 2009 Mar 15;278(1-2).

The susceptibility of various populations to multiple sclerosis (MS) and the clinical patterns of the disease are thought to be different. Nineteen articles related to incidence, prevalence and clinical patterns of MS in Arab populations were identified by keyword searching of Medline and Embase, and review of references in all relevant papers. Data were only available for the Kuwaiti, Jordanian, Libyan, Saudi, Iraqi, Palestinian (including Arabs living in Israel), and Omani populations. The publications ranged from 1975 to 2007. In Israel the incidence of MS was 0.7 per 100,000 per year in Arabs born and living in Greater Jerusalem. In Kuwait, the incidence of MS was 2.08 per 100,000. Prevalence varied from 4 to 42 per 100,000 population. The clinical pattern of MS was generally similar to that in western countries. However, one study from Oman found a high rate of optic-spinal disease (affecting one third of patients) and a low rate of oligoclonal bands (OGBs) (only one third of patients); this pattern resembles that of MS described in Asian countries. In conclusion, the prevalence of MS among Arabs has a wide reported range. The clinical pattern is generally similar to “Western type” MS but apparent differences in optic-spinal disease and OGBs positivity need further evaluation. There is significant opportunity for further evaluation of MS in Arabs, especially in unstudied areas, including the populous countries of Egypt, Algeria, Syria, and Morocco. Studies of Arab-Americans and Arab immigrants in Europe could help in defining the effect of immigration on MS. Such studies are likely to enhance our knowledge of the environmental, genetic and clinical variation of MS in Arabs.

29 thoughts on “PoliticalSpeak: the Syrian refugee crisis”

    1. Absolutely not, I expressed a poignant sentiment, wasn't a comment about what should be done. What should we do? Get rid of imaginary lines on the map, stop believing in patriotism as a concept and accept we are all people and that it is inequitable for the few rich to be controlling the masses of poor and miserable… until then I'll keep dreaming and reading this blog with interest 😉 Thanks for the great entry.Bojana

  1. This is one view. Let's also remember the victims of 7/7, Charlie Ebdo, the Glasgow airport bombing – undertaken by two trainees neurologists from Cambridge, the near miss on the recent Paris train, the relatives of Lee Rigby….. All those involved had come from other countries under the guise or refugees etc. Who in the boats crossing the Med are IS supporters, rapists, murderers – some will be. Thousands of children across the world died yesterday from different causes, yet one death is used by the media to manipulate the public. I'd be interested to see how the Syrians integrate in Western European societies – the track record of most muslim immigrants is not good (have you been to Bradford lately?). Lets also give a thought to the young girls in care homes in a number of cities around the UK who were terribly abused by men of a certain background. Don't bother accusing me of being right wing – I am. I'm also interested in the protection from harm to UK citizens from this who come here in need, but underneath our society and values. Also, we are a small country with a housing crisis. How many more people can we take?

    1. This is a humanitarian crisis; to confuse it with a potential ideological crisis is wrong. When the French Huguenots arrived in the UK we integrated them into our society. We need to do the same for the Syrians.

    2. And how many police officers, paramedics, doctors and nurses who worked to rescue and treat people caught up in those atrocities were once refugees themselves ?Undoubtedly some of the refugees coming from Syria will be criminals, all populations include criminals. By extending your argument does that mean we don't provide benefits to disabled British citizens because some of them are criminals ?Our housing crisis has nothing to do with the size of our country. The two preceding government chose to leave house-building to market forces so when the global recession hit, banks were unwilling to lend to construction companies and tens of thousands of skilled workers lost their jobs. The government also failed to regulate land-banking by supermarkets etc. So the finance wasn't there and the land wasn't available. The governments could have chosen to focus spending on infrastructure during the recession but they didn't – so the housing shortages widened.Thomas Malthus began writing treatises in 1798 on restricting population growth due to scarcity of resources – the UK population was then just over 10 million. We have a far better average standard of living now with a population 6 times as big.

    3. Anon 7:25It's heartening to see that a large number of UK citizens don't share your bleak view of humanity. It shames us as a nation to do nothing about this situation and I'm glad to se that the government seems now to be finally being forced to act. Cameron has played this extremely badly.Just stop for a moment and put yourself in the situation these people have found themselves in through no fault of your own and think what you would do in their position.

    4. Mate, I am sat here in Detroit, USA reading this blog, intent not to let anything get in the way of my R&R. I have heard all manner of rubbish spewing from the mouths of my American peers apropos what’s happening in the world, but bredrins, I cannot believe the balderdash anon 7:25am has blasted above.I know Muslims and I know Bradford (I was born there). In fact, Detroit is also full of Muslims yet I don’t hear the kind of nonsense about Islamic communities in Michigan that some humanity-bereft troglodytes in the UK are directing at Muslims in the Middle East seeking refuge in Europe.I remind you that all this chaos with immigration stems from the actuality that both America and Britain destabilised the entire region in the early noughties. This is Blair and Bush’s legacy. They went in guns blazing and didn’t have a realisable vision for instigating so-called democracy while also pillaging oil resources. This mess is the West’s doing and they are now responsible for dealing with it.Asylum is the least Britain can offer. In fact, America needs to offer asylum as they have the greater blame. All this idiocy vis-à-vis Muslims corrupting British values is heinously offensive as, when distilled, British values can be argued to amount to little more than drinking, fighting and shagging. (I bet that stings anon 7:25am, but it’s meant to.) I earnestly believe that Muslims also share greater values of equality and decency – the values most of us hold vital, too.The above comment is a cry for help. Anon-7:25am must be in so much pain and self-contempt to have said that. Don’t be angry at him/ her. They are looking for someone to heal their fears because fear is all they have. Learn to love again, son.I’m off to McDonald's.

    5. Dre, are you on Twitter? It seems a crime that we only here from you so infrequently.I agree with everything you said. You provide a soul to this blog.

  2. Ignoring the rest of the post by anonymous at 7:25, one of the Glasgow airport bombers was an engineer and the other was a locum house officer on a diabetes ward. Neither were in any way 'neurologists'. Neurologists are guilty of many crimes, just not that one.

  3. Dear Gavin,Let's all be Abdullah Kurdi, father of Aylan.May the force be with Aylan's last picture to end Syrian war, in the manner of Marc Riboud's 1967 "Flower Child" photograph of Jan Rose Kasmir marching to The Pentagon to protest against another bloody war…SB

  4. Thank you Dr Dre. A humane and reasoned reply. I live in a part of Europe where whole villages are empty and for sale. 20,000 will buy a whole village. The land is fertile and you can grow great cabbages, grapes and chestnuts. More importantly, the people are used to being poor. They need carers and cooks and entrepreneurs. I'd happily house about 3 families in my house in return for some building help. I understand Islam. Come here. You'd be welcome.

  5. I have MS and I am Syrian , But luckily I live and work in Dubai and I'm covered by work health insurance .. I have been raised in Dubai , but we used to visit Syria every year. I always loved Syria and I was very hopeful for change when the first cries for freedom came out from Darra.. But now the once peaceful revolution has degraded into a Civil war with different sides being backed by international power brokers. The chaos and anarchy has created a vacuum that was filled by Jihadists and ISIS . Before the war Syria was a very safe country , you could walk in any narrow alley at 3am ! and most Syrians are just normal people who just want to survive. Please don't betray humanity and support the refuges by donating to the UNHCR ..

  6. Similarly, Palestinians with MS have a terrible time. Palestine is one of those pockets of people that are against the usual geographic trend – they're closer to the Equator but with a higher rate of MS than you would expect. I cannot imagine what it is like to be trapped in Gaza with the continual limits on the basics, water, health care and so on, and have MS. As someone in a wheelchair, every time I see pictures of the rubble in the streets, I realize that if I was there I would be home bound. I'm sure the role of stress must be trumping the positives of geographic placement, if that makes sense.This is not a commentary on the political situation, this is my compassion for those who have the same disease as I do but are suffering in ways beyond those I can imagine.

  7. I cannot imagine how hellish it is to be forced to flee your home country and head off into the unknown. The story of the refugee who pushed his grandmother in a wheelchair from Afghanistan to Hungary was testament to the remarkable bravery, compassion and love that is to be found in human beings the world over. Amnesty International UK have a campaign page.

  8. I think or have a reasonable understanding, that in any situation, you should always imagine yourself on the other side – and then things reach such an intense level of clarity, that you wander why you missed it in the first place.

  9. Hello, Thank you for your thoughts. My brother-in-law lives in Syria and is suffering from MS. I am searching for ways to get him access to the medical treatment he needs (after 8 years he has not been able to get proper treatment). Do you have any resources or information that can help us?Thank you, Kathryn

    1. I am sorry to hear that Kathryn.Have you tried contacting directly the pharma companies that make the MS drugs (Biogen, Merck, Teva, Roche)? The drugs are extremely expensive and is impossible to be purchased.He might be able to use off label -and much cheaper than the MS ones- cancer therapies suitable for the disease, such as Rituximab and intravenous Cladribine. Still would need a hospital.If worse comes to worst, he can use -Minocycline, an old cheap antibiotic that has been proved to help MS-Boswellia supplements like 5-loxin or Aflapin (Bowsellia seems to improve MS symptoms), Turmeric and other antiiflammatory supplementsMake a diy "Tecfidera" (dimethyl fumarate) with directions from the internet The first two have medium effect, the third has its dangers.Good luck!

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