The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
UN impartiality questioned after hiring Syrian foreign minister's wife Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

UN impartiality questioned after hiring Syrian foreign minister's wife

Millions of Syrians have fled their homes as a result of the war [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2016

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Shukria Mekdad, the wife of Faisal Mekdad, a powerful proponent of the government’s war, has been appointed by a United Nations agency to investigate the mental health of displaced Syrians.
The wife of the Syrian deputy foreign minister has been appointed by the World Health Organisation [WHO] to assess the mental health of Syrians forced to flee their homes, raising accusations of partiality. 

Shukria Mekdad is known "less for her expertise than for her connections", the New York Times pointed out. She is not known as a figure in public mental health, nor has she published on the topic.

More than 260,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian war since 2011, with the regime of Bashar al-Assad accountable for at least 180,000 of those deaths.

The selection of Mrs Mekdad - the wife of Faisal Mekdad, a powerful proponent of the government's war effort - has led critics to lambast the United Nations agency.

Almost 14 million Syrians have fled their homes as a result of the war. Close to eight million are internally displaced within Syria and more than six million have sought refuge in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Jennifer Leaning, a professor at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health, said the quality of any data gathered by Mekdad on the mental health of Syrians, displaced by a war her husband has helped prosecute, will be questioned.

Leaning also scrutinised what she called the "optics" of hiring a senior Syrian government official's wife as a consultant on something as sensitive as mental health.
The quality of any data gathered by Shukria Mekdad on the mental health of Syrians, displaced by a war her husband has helped prosecute, will be questioned
The WHO chief in Damascus, Elizabeth Hoff, defended the choice, saying her team included people from all political camps.

"I didn't recruit them based on their names or their connections," Hoff said. "I also have people in my office who are strongly with the opposition."

Inside Syria, a quarter of all children are at risk of developing a mental health disorder, a United Nations humanitarian report found.

Leading children's charity, Save The Children, also found that the psychological well-being of vulnerable children fleeing the Syrian war was also in serious jeopardy.

Click to enlarge

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More