SAMS Alarmed by Heightened Attacks on Civilian Infrastructure in Northwest Syria
For Immediate Release
June 11, 2019
Washington, D.C.- * The targeting of civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria continues with impunity, killing at least 380 civilians, including 91 children, and injuring many more since the beginning of the escalation on April 26, 2019. Yesterday, SAMS medical workers on the ground reported receiving 27 casualties, including 11 children. Another 70 were injured. A mother and her two children were reported among the deaths in Al Zerbeh in the southern Aleppo countryside. **Since the beginning of the offensive on April 26, SAMS has received 1,649 injured patients.
Organizations responding to the health needs in the area have reported 25 attacks on health facilities, each of which represents an egregious violation of international humanitarian law. These attacks make it more difficult for civilians to access medical care at a time when they desperately need it, as hospitals are forced to close, turn away non-emergency cases, or redirect cases to hospitals in safer areas. The majority of SAMS facilities in northwestern Syria have been working under a state of emergency, responding to critical, urgent cases.
_“If I could describe what we have been experiencing over the last few weeks, I’d say it’s been nothing short of hell on earth. The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. The ongoing targeting of civilians has caused waves of displaced people who have resorted to living under olive trees. Our hospitals have been overflowing with the sick and injured, but we are trying our best to respond given the challenges and aerial threats we’re facing,” _said Dr. Walid Tamer, one of SAMS surgeons at the Atareb Hospital.
In addition to inflicting damage on the healthcare system, this recent escalation has also resulted in an unprecedented wave of displacement from areas in northern Hama and southern Idlib to areas further north, especially along the Turkish border. At least 326,000 people have been forced into displacement since April 26th. Many of them have been displaced more than once, including from Dara’a and East Ghouta. Of those displaced, only 103,000 have been able to find refuge in hosting sites for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The rest have been forced to seek shelter in informal sites with limited access to services or remain out in the open. Sanitation infrastructure is critically lacking in these areas; there are often no safe or private toilet facilities, and clean water supplies are limited. As the violence continues in northwestern Syria, it is unlikely that IDPs will return home in the foreseeable future, and they need access to basic shelter and sanitation services in the meantime.
Violence remains the root cause of suffering and displacement in northwestern Syria. Concerned states should undertake intensive diplomatic efforts to prevent further aggression and put an end to the indiscriminate and systematic attacks on civilian infrastructure. International humanitarian law must be adhered to, and parties to the conflict must refrain from targeting civilians and humanitarian infrastructure, especially medical facilities. In order to protect healthcare facilities, the UNOCHA-led deconfliction mechanism should be fully implemented and respected, including taking steps to investigate violations of the mechanism and publicly acknowledging allegations of attacks on health and humanitarian facilities. Finally, donors should mobilize emergency funding to support those newly displaced from the violence. The needs go further than simply providing tents and hygiene kits; a comprehensive response is needed to ensure that IDPs have adequate shelter, sanitation infrastructure and facilities, water, and food, as well as emergency medical care.
“The situation in Idlib continues to worsen by the day, yet the international community remains silent, or unwilling, to act to protect these vulnerable civilians. Attacks on hospitals and medical facilities are inexplicable and perpetrators need to be held accountable,” _said Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, SAMS President. _“For how long will we continue to see blatant violations of international humanitarian law go unanswered and ignored? The international community continues to fail the people of Syria.”
**For media inquiries, contact SAMS Media and Communications Manager Lobna Hassairi at email@example.com. **