Severe shortages in life-saving medicines inside Syria of major concern to WHO

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Amman (7 March 2013) – Prior to the crisis in Syria, more than 90% of medicines were locally produced. Since then, the effects of economic sanctions, currency fluctuations, difficulty in the availability of hard currency and an increase in operational costs have negatively affected the production of medicines and pharmaceutical products. The escalation of clashes has resulted in substantial damages to the pharmaceutical plants located in Rural Aleppo and Rural Damascus, where 90% of the country’s plants are based. Many of the plans have reportedly been destroyed or are closed because the workers cannot access their work place. As a result, local production of medicines has been reduced by 90 %. Additionally, the main government storage for imported medicines, which included most of the required needs for the first quarter of 2013, has been destroyed.

Assessments by WHO indicate that insulin, oxygen, anesthetics, serums and intravenous fluids are no longer available inside Syria to meet the needs, with health facilities and local pharmacies increasingly unable to provide medicines, particularly those for the continuous treatment of chronic diseases.

Until recently, WHO had been unable to assess the extent of damage to public health due to the lack of a reference pharmaceutical list assessed and validated by experts on the basis of WHO’s Essential Drug List. To overcome this obstacle, health experts from Syria and pharmaceutical experts and health professionals from WHO met in Amman to address critical shortages in medicines and medical supplies inside Syria, resulting in an updated Essential Medicines List. Reflecting disease profiles, current gaps and critical needs, the list will serve to enhance the effectiveness of WHO’s and partners’ emergency response efforts for health by enabling projection and quantification of essential medicine requirements and the development of standard procurement procedures.

The experts evaluated the needs for the next 12 months in terms of essential medicines, medical supplies, medical consumables and anti-cancer medicines and estimated that these will require a minimum of US$900 million. A list of most urgently-needed and life-saving items has also been developed, containing 168 items (92 urgently needed essential medicines, 33 cancer medicines and 43 consumables) and estimated to require US$ 467 million for 2013.

WHO calls on the international community for urgent support to cover these critical gaps in essential medicines inside Syria. It is essential that cash or in-kind donations be delivered through bilateral or multilateral channels and adhere to WHO’s drug donation guidelines. Donors and charity organizations are also requested to inform WHO of their donations (specifications and quantities).

For more information, contact: Elizabeth Hoff WHO Representative in the Syrian Arab Republic E-mail: Phone: +963 988 133986