Syrian Government Has Committed 90% of Attacks on Hospitals

Troy Brown, RN

May 15, 2014

The Syrian government is responsible for 90% of the 150 confirmed attacks on 124 healthcare facilities between March 2011 and March 2014, according to a May 14 statement by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).

More than 460 civilian health professionals have been killed across Syria since March 2011, including at least 157 physicians, 94 nurses, 84 medics, and 45 pharmacists. Approximately 41% of the deaths resulted from shelling and bombings, 31% resulted from shootings, and 13% were the result of torture.

Physicians for Human Rights has set up an interactive map with 200 links, including more than 100 videos and photos, to track these attacks. The map will be updated regularly and "is the most comprehensive resource on attacks on medical care in Syria since the civil war started," according to the statement.

The organization collected information on the 150 attacks from sources including the United Nations, governmental and nongovernmental reports, news articles, and social media. The map does not reflect other attacks that PHR was unable to confirm at this time.

"Will Haunt Syria for Years"

From January through March of this year, at least 14 attacks on medical infrastructure have occurred, and 36 healthcare workers have reportedly been killed.

On February 7, government forces hit a medical clinic in Aleppo with a smart missile, killing 2 patients and injuring 16 people, including 8 staff members. The facility was forced to close, and that area of Aleppo was left without a functioning hospital.

With almost half the public hospitals partially or totally destroyed, citizens have been forced to rely on primitive field hospitals. "After more than 700 days under siege, people in Homs are facing serious health consequences as the medical system collapses, with only 3 doctors available to provide treatment compared to an estimated 800 before the war," the statement explains.

"The systematic nature of these attacks reflects the government's indifference to the health and life of civilians, which has created a public health crisis that will haunt Syria for years," Erin Gallagher, PHR's director of emergency investigations and response, said in the statement. "Doctors and nurses who are committed to caring for everyone, regardless of political beliefs, are being killed while trying to save lives under grueling circumstances."

In all, the United Nations estimates that 245,000 people in Syria are living in besieged areas, cut off from food, water, and medical supplies, according to PHR.

Attacks by Antigovernment Forces Increasing

Attacks by antigovernment forces are also increasing: 9 of the 10 attacks committed by opposition groups have occurred since March 2013.

"[T]he unlawful actions of one party to a conflict do not give others a license to also break the law," the statement notes.

"Syria is among the worst examples of targeting medical care as a weapon of war, and we must not allow these rampant abuses to become the new norm in conflict," Donna McKay, PHR's executive director said in the statement.


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