Statement by Ramesh Rajasingham, Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, on Ongoing Violence Against Health Facilities, 17 April 2018 [EN/AR]
Gaziantep, 17 April 2018
I am deeply disturbed over Saturday’s reported fighting between non-state armed groups outside the Al Ma’ra National Hospital in Ma’arrat An Nu’man town in Idleb Governorate, resulting in the suspension of that facility’s services and placing hospital staff and patients at risk.
Such violence is completely unacceptable. Hospitals are, and must remain, a place of sanctuary and unequivocal neutrality to ensure that patients undergoing medical care are safe. Under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), parties to the conflict may under no circumstances attack medical facilities and personnel, and must take all feasible precautions to protect them from incidental damage.
In response to the incident, 14 NGOs supporting the hospital announced the suspension of all activities on 16 and 17 April, as well as to suspend the non-emergency work in all projects supported by participating health organizations inside Syria, including the Al-Ma’ra National Hospital, until Friday, 20 April. On a monthly basis, the hospital provides an average of 14,000 consultations, 500 admissions, 2,000 trauma cases treatments and 230 major surgeries to area residents.
Among the many medical facilities which suspended non-emergency services were major hospitals in Bab Al-Hawa, Atma, Balyun, Kafar Nobol and Idleb city.
Attacks against medical facilities and medical personnel, which have special protection under IHL, remain endemic to the conflict in Syria. In the first three months of 2018, there have 72 confirmed attacks on health services and facilities.
Armed group must not interfere or impede the work of humanitarian organizations and their staff who operate under the strict humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence and humanity.
Any such actions can affect the flow of critically needed humanitarian assistance to vulnerable civilian communities and lead to further vulnerability.
I remind the armed groups of the Declaration of Commitment signed by many committing to respect IHL at all times and without prejudice.
I condemn all attacks against medical facilities and call on all armed groups to the conflict to respect and protect medical and humanitarian personnel, their means of transport and equipment and property, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities, as per UN Security Council Resolution 2286 (2016).
For further information, please contact: David Swanson, Public Information Officer, OCHA Regional Office for the Syria Crisis, Amman, email@example.com, Tel: +962 791 417 882
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.