Missiles Hit MSF-Supported Hospital Near Damascus

BRUSSELS—A Damascus area hospital supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was struck by missiles on November 19, during an attack on a town in a besieged area east of the Syrian capital.

Approximately 30 minutes after the town of Erbin came under aerial attack at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, two missiles struck the entrance of a makeshift hospital in the area, just as seven wounded people arrived for urgent treatment. Two people were killed and six were injured in the strike. The wounded included two medics triaging and assisting the other patients that had arrived. One required lifesaving open chest surgery, and the other sustained multiple fractures. The hospital building and one ambulance were also damaged.

"The situation was chaotic," said the director of Erbin Hospital, who wished to remain anonymous. "We were just starting to treat the first influx of wounded when suddenly other missiles hit in front of the hospital. It took us a moment to realize that two of our colleagues who had been assisting the wounded at the entrance were severely injured. A dramatic situation suddenly became doubly dramatic."

On November 20 intense bombing continued in the Ein Terma neighborhood of East Ghouta, where an MSF-supported makeshift hospital treated 17 war-wounded patients and recorded six people dead on arrival.

"MSF is appalled that a health structure and medical staff providing life-saving treatment to wounded victims of an indiscriminate bombing campaign are once again targeted," said Brice de le Vingne, MSF director of operations. "We hear the pain and despair of these medics, who are struggling with the odds so heavily stacked against them. Day after day, these doctors and nurses are working under siege and under bombs; they have very limited equipment, and are forced to work in converted makeshift buildings. With two talented medics very seriously wounded, the number of medics available for these besieged communities, under a torrent of bombs, has shrunk even further."

As part of its regular support program, MSF recently provided the Erbin Hospital with an anesthesia kit, drugs for the operating theater, and a diarrhea-treatment kit. MSF’s support team will be urgently seeking to arrange resupply for any items damaged in the missile strike or consumed during the treatment of the wounded.

MSF operates six medical facilities in the north of Syria and directly supports more than 100 health posts and field hospitals throughout the country, with a particular focus on besieged areas. These are mostly makeshift facilities with no MSF staff present, where MSF provides both material support and distance training support to assist Syrian medics cope with the extreme medical needs. This support network has been built up over the past four years.