Syria: All Parties To The Conflict Must Respect Medical Facilities

Amid growing insecurity in Syria's Aleppo region, all parties to the conflict must respect patients, medical staff, and health facilities, MSF said today.

NEW YORK, January 26, 2013 – Amid growing insecurity in Syria's Aleppo region, all parties to the conflict must respect patients, medical staff, and health facilities, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

On January 24, a missile landed 800 meters from an MSF field hospital in the Aleppo area. No casualties were reported. On January 13, after an airstrike on a market in the nearby town of Azaz, 20 wounded people were treated at MSF’s hospital.

“The growing number of attacks in this area is likely to undermine our capacity to carry out medical activities,” said Teresa Sancristóval, MSF’s emergency desk manager.

MSF remains committed to assisting the population in Syria despite widespread violence, but MSF's three field hospitals are only able to handle a small fraction of the unmet medical needs in the country.

“Besides the war-wounded and the direct victims of violence, the conflict is affecting the most vulnerable, especially people with chronic diseases, women and children,” said Miriam Alía, MSF medical coordinator.

Among pregnant women, miscarriages and pre-term births are on the rise because of the stress caused by the conflict. Women who would previously have given birth in a hospital now find themselves with little access to free medical services. MSF’s field hospitals are among the few facilities providing much-needed health care for pregnant women and newborn babies.

Deliveries at MSF's field hospital in the Aleppo region have increased from 56 in the month of November to more than 150 in the first three weeks of January. Fifteen of this month's deliveries are pre-term infants who would normally require specialized medical equipment which is currently only available across the Turkish border.

"Women and children are paying a very high price in this war,” said Sancristóval.

In the Aleppo region and elsewhere in northern Syria, MSF teams are providing emergency, obstetric, and general health care. From June 2012 to January 2013, they conducted more than 10,000 consultations and performed over 900 surgical interventions. MSF teams are also providing medical and surgical care to Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Since the protests began in Syria almost two years ago, MSF has tried to gain access to the areas where humanitarian needs are most urgent. However, the scope of MSF activities inside Syria remains limited due to insecurity and official restrictions. For months MSF has been seeking official authorization to assist Syrians in government-controlled areas, so far without success.