BARCELONA/NEW YORK—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today urged all parties to the Syrian conflict to facilitate the evacuation of people wounded in recent fierce clashes in the city of Aleppo, where the population has been trapped by fighting and aerial bombardments for months. A new wave of displaced families is fleeing Aleppo and trying to reach the Turkish border to seek shelter with relatives or in camps for displaced people.
"We call on parties to the conflict to allow the population to seek refuge in safe areas and provide humanitarian assistance," said Raquel Ayora, MSF director of operations. "This already-grave humanitarian crisis will deteriorate further if medical teams have no access to the area and there is no way to get in supplies. We are talking about tens of thousands of people isolated from any kind of assistance."
Following the fighting between government and opposition forces on February 16, 21 wounded people were admitted to an MSF hospital located near the Turkish border. Eleven more wounded people arrived at an MSF facility on the outskirts of Aleppo, where medical staff were forced to evacuate because of the worsening insecurity. Seven patients were stabilized and transferred to other health centers prior to the evacuation. Voluntary medical workers from the area staffed the hospital to provide emergency assistance to the wounded, a sign of the dedication shown by Syrian medical networks.
"Our paramount concern is that the clashes block the only road open between Aleppo and the northern border with Turkey, making it almost impossible to run ambulance services and provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the people trapped by war in eastern Aleppo," said Ayora.
During the clashes, artillery was used and helicopters targeted both villages and the front lines. In Hayyan, located in rural Aleppo Province, there were also reports of at least one barrel bombing, a tactic frequently used by Syrian forces in the past year.
In 2014, the MSF teams running the hospital on the outskirts of Aleppo carried out roughly 16,000 consultations (among them, 6,000 in the emergency room) and admitted 410 patients.
MSF is also operating a hospital near the Turkish border, where many displaced people stay in a camp hosting more than 15,000 people.
The presence of international staff in MSF projects in Syria is extremely limited due to security constraints. All the MSF staff recently evacuated from Aleppo are Syrian.
MSF continues to operate medical facilities inside Syria and provides direct support to more than 120 clinics, health posts, and field hospitals. MSF is also providing care to patients from Syria who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.