09/08/2016

Syria: under bombs and under fire



TO SECRETARY JOHN KERRY AND PRESIDENT OBAMA,


The repeated targeting of healthcare workers and hospitals by the Russian and Syrian governments are war crimes. We call on you to give Syria’s heroic healthcare workers and the communities they serve a zone free from bombing to ensure their protection. The international community has agreed the bombs need to stop. The resolutions are in place. They simply need to be enforced.



BOMBS AND UNDER FIRE

We are in an emergency. In July 2016 a medical facility was attacked on average every 17 hours. Many facilities have been attacked multiple times, often changing location for safety. When they started building a hospital in one northern Syrian town, local residents begged them to move -- knowing the hospital would be targeted.

Since Syria’s peaceful uprising was met with brutal force doctors have been systematically targeted by the Syrian government and its allies. For the Syrian government anyone treating people on ‘the other side’ is a valid target, and their elimination part of a deliberate strategy to force people back into areas under its control. 
Of the 750 medical workers killed since the beginning of the conflict, all but 52 have been killed by Syrian or Russian government attacks - this is just what has been documented, the real number is likely much higher. 
Despite being in clear contravention of international humanitarian law, medics have been executed and tortured. One doctor who was interrogated said “the most important thing was not to reveal my medical work,” since it is common knowledge that doctors are tortured worse than other prisoners.

However, the biggest killer of medical workers in Syria is neither torture nor execution. The greatest threat comes from the air - the Syrian government and Russian bombing. At least 750 medical workers have been killed and over 400 hospital attacks have been destroyed by these indiscriminate weapons. 
These attacks are not just killing physicians and damaging hospitals, but destroying entire communities. When you kill a doctor in Syria, you are ensuring that hundreds, if not thousands, of people will die. 
When you destroy a medical facility, you push people out of their communities to seek desperately needed services. In addition to routine aerial attacks targeting hospitals, health workers face a chronic lack of supplies and specialists. This is particularly dire in besieged areas, where treatable diseases and injuries can be a death sentence.

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