Bess Cohn Memorial Humanitarian Award 2017: Philip Koosed, Bamko

Philip Koosed doesn’t have a particular interest in foreign affairs, but he does have a conscience. He can’t stomach images of children suffering. For the past six years, he’s seen those images on a daily loop as the Syrian civil war claims more innocent victims. “Never have we seen such deliberate targeting of children,” Koosed says.

In March of 2011, 15 boys between the ages of 10 and 15 were detained and tortured in the city of Daraa for painting anti-government graffiti. When the boys’ families and local religious leaders peacefully marched in protest, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered security forces to open fire, killing hordes of civilians. In retaliation, several military officers defected and formed the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group aiming to overthrow the government. The ensuing war has become the deadliest conflict to date in the 21st century: More than 465,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, more than a million have been injured and over 12 million have been displaced from their homes.

Koosed and his wife, Tamar, a consultant in the international development community, have been deeply affected by the mass murder. Both of Philip’s grandparents lost their families in the Holocaust. “When I see outright genocide, innocent lives being killed without any kind of thought, I have this obligation to my grandparents and their memory to do something,” Koosed says.

At first, the president of Bamko (asi/131431) considered donating to large aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. However, they’ve been unable to officially operate inside Syria because they need permission from the regime, which Assad hasn’t granted. So Koosed devised a new plan: Develop a supply chain to deliver life-saving medical supplies directly to the war zone. Using his wife’s connections, he spent three months building a network of doctors operating in hospitals in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces. The doctors compiled a list of supplies most needed like CAT tourniquets, hemorrhage bandages and gauze to minimize civilian casualties from cluster and bunker bombs.

Then, he sourced over a million supplies factory direct from China, shipping the containers across the Indian Ocean up through the Suez Canal to the Port of Mersin in Turkey. Koosed also received excess inventory from hospitals and medical companies in the U.S., which were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, and then to the Port of Mersin.

The Turkish government allowed trucks delivering the supplies to pass through the country, where they were delivered to two medical warehouses and distributed to 28 hospitals in Idlib and Aleppo.

Since the first shipment was sent in March, Koosed has been overwhelmed with requests for surgical knives, medicine, X-ray machines and other medical equipment. A second shipment full of hazmat suits and gas masks was ordered in response to the gas attacks in April. In order to meet these needs, Koosed and his wife have raised funds from family, friends and Bamko employees.

“Each morning, we’re woken up with a splash of cold water and a dose of reality,” Koosed says. “We’re shining light on a conflict that people either know about but are numb to or simply don’t know at all.”

However, all hope is not lost. Thanks to this humanitarian’s help, medical professionals can provide much-needed aid, and countless innocent victims can now call themselves survivors.


Get to know Philip Koosed