Durbin Meets with His State of the Union Guest, MedGlobal President and Illinoisan, Dr. Zaher Sahloul

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with his guest for President Biden’s State of the Union address, Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President of MedGlobal, a nonprofit that provides critical medical services in areas of crisis.  Through MedGlobal, Dr. Sahloul has been coordinating humanitarian and medical relief services for innocent people in Gaza caught in the crossfire spurred by the horrific October 7 Hamas attacks.  Gaza hospitals have been in desperate need of medical supplies, forcing medical professionals to sometimes rely on vinegar as antiseptics or use Tylenol as the only relief forthose undergoing amputations.

Dr. Sahloul has also provided urgent care to desperate populations amidst natural and man-made disasters in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Turkey, and Bangladesh.  In 2017, when the Burmese military was attacking its Rohingya population, Durbin traveled to a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to see Dr. Sahloul’s work firsthand. 

In addition to his role in MedGlobal, Dr. Sahloul is a critical care specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Saint Anthony’s Hospital, and an Associate Professor in Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago. 

“Dr. Sahloul has been at the site of so many humanitarian crises, putting his own fears aside to tend to the urgent needs of those most impacted by war, cruelty, or other crises.  In dark times, he’s been a source of light, providing medical care and humanitarian support in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Bangladesh, and now, Gaza,” said Durbin.  “Dr. Sahloul epitomizes humanity’s goodness during times of conflict and trauma.  I am honored to host him as my guest for President Biden’s State of the Union address.”

Durbin continued, “While I’m relieved that the U.S. has begun airdropping emergency supplies to Gaza, it’s only a small step in the right direction.  We need a ceasefire by all sides that includes the release of remaining Israeli hostages.  And it’s my hope that such a pause could be used to deliver the desperately needed humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

“As a proud immigrant, Muslim-American and Arab-American, and on behalf of my colleagues at MedGlobal, I wholeheartedly thank Senator Durbin for his invitation to join him as his guest for the State of the Union address – and for all that he continues to do to help advocate for urgently needed U.S. action to alleviate the desperate humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  The Senator is truly a great ally in the pursuit of human rights and safety for vulnerable populations, domestically and around the world.  In the over 20 years in which I’ve known him, Senator Durbin has always stood forour country’s core values and showed compassion for the most vulnerable,” Dr. Sahloul said.

Dr. Sahloul continued, “In all my years working in crisis zones around the world to provide medical care and support forhealthcare workers on the ground, the situation now unfolding in Gaza is the most alarming I have ever seen.  Our medical teams in Gaza have witnessed firsthand the mass casualties, extreme hunger, and spreading disease – and the near complete breakdown of critical medical infrastructure.  I saw all this myself when I was in Gaza for two weeks in January.  MedGlobal urges President Biden and all of our elected officials to do everything in their power to bring about an immediate and sustained ceasefire, dramatically increase aid deliveries, and reinstate funding to UNRWA.  Many thousands of lives hang in the balance.”

Photos of the meeting can be found here.

B-roll for TV stations can be found here.

The first Senator to do so, Durbin called for a ceasefire deal to be reached between Israel and Hamas in exchange for a release of hostages on November 2.  He has renewed his call as Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages and for a dramatic increase in humanitarian aid to those innocents caught in the conflict. 

As more details emerged about the lack of medical supplies, medications, or safe facilities for those in need of medical attention in Gaza, Durbin also advocated for hospitals in Gaza to be reopened under the supervision of a credible, neutral third party in order to help innocent civilians living in a war zone. In November, Durbin spoke with United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Under-Secretary-General forHumanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths about the situation. 

Last year, Durbin led 106 of his colleagues in a letter to President Biden calling on his Administration to designate the Palestinian territories for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and/or authorize Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Palestinians present in the United States. In February, the Administration heeded Durbin’s call and authorized DED for Palestinians present in the United States. 

Dr. Zaher Sahloul

Dr. Sahloul is President of MedGlobal, a nonprofit organization that provides medical services to people in areas of crisis.  He is the former head of the Syrian American Medical Society that led similar life-saving missions to regions hit by natural and man-made emergencies.  Such combined efforts have including work in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Bangladesh, and Gaza.  Durbin visited Dr. Sahloul’s work helping Rohingya refugees who had fled sustained violence in Burma in 2017. 

Dr. Sahloul is a critical care specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Saint Anthony’s hospital and Associate Professor in Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago.  His humanitarian efforts have been widely recognized, including by awarding of the Gandhi Award for Peace, the Heartland Alliance Kovler Center Dr. Robert Kirschner’s Award for Global Activism, and UNICEF Chicago’s Shine a Light on Global Refugee Crisis annual humanitarian award.

Learn more about Dr. Sahloul and MedGlobal’s mission here.