Syria: Airstrike on Market Kills and Injures Scores

At least 20 people were killed and 99 injured when warplanes bombed a market in the northern Syrian city of Azaz on January 13.

Syria 2013 © MSF

MSF medical staff treats a patient after an airstrike in Azaz city.

NEW YORK, JANUARY 14, 2013—At least 20 people were killed and 99 injured when warplanes bombed a market in the northern Syrian city of Azaz on January 13, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. Twenty of the wounded, all civilians, were treated in an MSF medical facility.

The attack in Azaz, a city near the border with Turkey, was particularly devastating. It followed earlier airstrikes that hit health facilities in the city, making it almost impossible for local medical staff to cope with the scale of the latest emergency. The injured were transported to medical facilities elsewhere in the region, including to an MSF field hospital in the Aleppo area.

“The cars and ambulances kept on coming and patients flooded the hospital,” said Adriana Ferracin, an MSF nurse in Syria. “We received many patients with limb amputations, head injuries, and bleeding eyes and ears.”

Five people were dead on arrival at the MSF facility, while 20 wounded people were treated, among them five children. At hospitals elsewhere in the area, including Kilis Hospital on the Turkish side of the border, 15 people were dead on arrival and 79 received treatment for their injuries.

Azaz, in Syria’s Aleppo region, has been bombed several times over recent months. In December, warplanes bombed a public hospital, diminishing its capacity to provide medical services to the population and making many people afraid to seek medical care.

“Even after the airstrikes on medical facilities in the Aleppo region, local doctors and nurses remained committed to providing medical care, and they are doing their best to help the population,” said Shinjiro Murata, MSF head of mission in Syria.

MSF’s field hospital in the Aleppo region—one of three run by MSF in Syria—provides emergency, obstetric, and primary health care, focusing on pregnant women, children, and the most vulnerable.

Over the past month, medical staff at the hospital conducted 110 surgeries, delivered 70 babies, and treated approximately 1,500 patients. MSF has witnessed an increase in pathologies with the onset of the winter, and remains concerned about access to treatment for patients with chronic diseases.

Violence is hitting an already vulnerable population with limited access to medical care and food. Escalating prices of essential supplies, such as bread, wood, and clothing are further worsening the population’s living conditions. As in Azaz, many people prefer to seek medical care in clandestine structures for fear that hospitals will be targeted in airstrikes.

MSF staff members have also witnessed the consequences of violence in neighboring Idlib Province. A team returned recently from a northern city in the region that has been repeatedly bombed, reporting that the sole functioning medical facility is a secretly-run clinic, staffed by local people and a few Syrian health workers.

MSF is working in three hospitals in the north of Syria, in areas controlled by armed opposition groups. Medical teams provide emergency care, surgery and maternal healthcare. Between June 2012 and early January 2013, MSF teams conducted more than 10,000 consultations and performed more than 900 surgical interventions. MSF is also providing medical and surgical services to Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.