NORTHWESTERN SYRIA/NEW YORK DECEMBER 13, 2021—On Saturday, 15 people—including 11 children under the age of 14—were rushed to a hospital co-managed by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) following an airstrike in Idlib governorate, northwestern Syria. Two of these individuals died from their injuries before reaching the hospital.
“This is not the first time we have dealt with a mass casualty influx, but it’s unusual to see so many children,” said Dr. Jihad Ismail*, MSF’s medical activity manager. “In this instance some were as young as two. It’s distressing to see children who have experienced nothing but conflict in their short lives become not just witnesses but also direct victims of such violence.”
One of the victims, a four-year-old-girl, remains in a critical condition. “There were shrapnel wounds all over her small body,” said Dr. Ismail. “Our medical team managed to stabilize her, but it was still very shocking to see her injuries.”
The volatility of the situation in northwestern Syria means MSF’s teams frequently respond to medical emergencies such as mass casualty events. Airstrikes and shelling continue in the region, despite a ceasefire agreement in March 2020. The ceasefire came after months of bombing, shelling, and ground offensives that displaced nearly a million people.
People in northwestern Syria have been severely impacted by more than ten years of conflict that has decimated the health care system. Mass casualty events like this illustrate the ongoing need for urgent, lifesaving care, MSF said.
MSF continues to monitor the most critical needs of people in northwestern Syria and stands ready to increase our capacity to respond during and after emergencies.
*Name has been changed.
For more than a decade, MSF has adapted to the changing context in Syria in response to the growing humanitarian and medical needs across the country.
In northwestern Syria, MSF currently supports eight hospitals, including one burns unit, 12 primary health care centers, and five ambulances that are used for referrals. In addition, MSF supports 14 mobile clinics serving more than 80 camps for internally displaced people. MSF is also running water, sanitation, and hygiene activities in almost 90 camps. We also conduct COVID-19 testing and distribute infection prevention kits to displaced people. To counter vaccine hesitancy, MSF launched health promotion initiatives to spread awareness directly within communities as well digitally.