25 December 2019, Geneva-Cairo-Copenhagen – The World Health Organization today expressed its deepening concern about the situation in northwest Syria and the impact hostilities are having on the health of a population that has endured sustained hardships, in what is now harsh weather conditions.
“The recent military escalation in this area has resulted in loss of lives, injuries and exacerbated suffering of civilians, displacing more than 130,000, including women, children and elderly,” said Dr Richard Brennan, Director of Health Emergencies for WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region. “Some have been displaced three times during the nine years of the Syrian conflict,” he added.
Among the 12 million people in need of health services in Syria, over 2.7 million are in the northwest and half 0.5 million live in the areas south of Idleb, where disruption of fragile health services continues.
WHO was informed that currently some 14 primary health care (PHC) centres and two hospitals have been closed due to security conditions. The 14 PHC centres no longer provide childhood vaccinations in their catchment areas and Alsalam maternity services have been fully suspended with staff evacuated on 20 December. Al Ma’ra National Hospital was evacuated and closed on 23 December 2019. Two hemodialysis centers in Ma'aret Alnoman and Babilla were also closed, leaving about 35 patients in need of hemodialysis without these life-saving services.
WHO is also concerned about the impact of this new crisis on the mental health of residents in this area, particularly after a recent WHO report, published in June, indicated that one in five people in post-conflict settings suffers from depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. The recent escalation will contribute to an increased demand for these services, at a time when availability is increasingly constrained.
If hostilities continue, an additional 42 health facilities are at risk of suspending their services in areas south and east of Idleb. Shortages of drugs, medical supplies and health personnel will further aggravate the situation, leaving hundreds of thousands without access to essential health care services. A related concern is the frequency of attacks on health care facilities, which makes access to health care even more difficult. By the end of November, 83 attacks in Syria were reported to WHO’s Surveillance System with 69 of them (83%) reported in the north west.
In the midst of this crisis, WHO continues to work with partners to assess evolving needs and coordinate response actions. “We are supporting mobile health teams, have distributed pre-positioned health kits and supplies, extended support for mental health services and will continue to do what we can to ensure health and protect the vulnerable,” reiterated Brennan.
For more information, please contact:
Misbah M. Sheikh
External Relations, EMRO, WHO