Syria: Desperate Conditions Worsen Five Months After Jordanian Border Closure

AMMAN, JORDAN/NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 21, 2016—Five months after Jordan sealed its border with Syria, displaced and war-wounded Syrians are stranded in increasingly desperate conditions as winter approaches, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, calling for access to those in need.

More than 75,000 Syrians, three-quarters of whom are women and children, are taking shelter in flimsy tents along Jordan's northeastern border in a desert area known as the "Berm." They have no access to quality medical care, proper winter clothing or any form of heating as cold weather sets in.

"Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing," said Dr. Natalie Thurtle, MSF's medical team leader. "In the near future, we expect to hear of young children dying of hypothermia, because this is something that happened last year."

Since the closure of the borders on June 21, people on the Berm have had very limited access to food and other essentials, which has led to serious health complications. In the last week alone, MSF has received 140 unconfirmed reports of malnutrition cases among Syrians on the Berm.

MSF calls for access for its teams to assess medical needs on the Berm and provide much-needed basic medical care.

Many miles to the west, war-wounded Syrians continue to be denied access to the Jordanian border town of Ramtha. The border closure halted the medical evacuation of wounded Syrians from Dara'a governorate in southern Syria to Ramtha hospital, where MSF has run an emergency surgical project for more than three years.

Despite reports of the intensification of violence and fighting in southern Syria, MSF's wards in Ramtha are almost empty. Should the situation at the borders remain unchanged, MSF's ongoing programs in Jordan which address the medical needs of war-wounded Syrians could be forced to close.

MSF strongly calls on the government of Jordan to remove barriers imposed on the provision of lifesaving medical care by allowing the medical evacuation of war-wounded Syrians, especially the most vulnerable, women and children, to MSF's emergency surgical project in Ramtha.

MSF operated a mobile health clinic at the Berm for 23 days in May and June to provide primary health care and reproductive health care. The majority of patients were women and children under five. During this time, MSF saw 3,501 patients, including 450 pregnant women, and delivered one baby. At MSF's emergency surgical project in Ramtha, MSF continues to provide lifesaving surgical care and rehabilitative post-operative care to war-wounded Syrians who were able to cross into Jordan prior to the closure of borders. Since September 2013, MSF has seen more than 2,427 wounded patients in the emergency room of Ramtha hospital and performed more than 4,500 surgical interventions on Syrian patients, including more than 800 major surgeries.