More and more people flee from the fighting
While displaced people find themselves squeezed between a closed Turkish border and an advancing frontline, the clear majority of approximately three million people living in Northwest Syria are already extremely vulnerable and the continued fighting is only further compromising their chances to survive. Not only do people have to flee for their lives and sometimes struggle to even find a tent to stay in at overcrowded camps, they are also living all the consequences of the conflict. Access to healthcare, for instance, has become increasingly limited as the frontline continues moving and numbers of casualties keep on rising.
“An important number of hospitals in the area have been hit and have been either partially or fully destroyed in Northwest Syria in the space of just a few months” explains Cristian Reynders, MSF project coordinator for northern Idlib. “What this concretely means is that as the fighting continues, wounded people have less and less chances to even access health facilities. If people must go further to be treated, the chances that their injuries worsen or the probability that they even die is only getting higher.”
Bombing of hospitals continue
In recent weeks, we’ve increased our ad-hoc support to multiple facilities closely located to the frontlines, to help them cope with the situation. We’ve provided first aid kits and surgical kits to four hospitals in the past weeks. “Even if our regularly supported facilities, located further north in the region, are not receiving patients from the areas closer to the frontline, there’s a clear call for help from the facilities acting as fist-line responders and we can’t simply ignore it,” continues Cristian Reynders.
The Maarat al Numan hospital, one of the largest hospital in the southern Idlib area, was recently put out of service because of the bombing. More recently, on January 29th, an armed opposition group stormed into the Idlib Central Hospital, one of the other major health facility in the area, to which we had just donated surgery and first aid kits. For a few hours, they occupied the facility for military purposes, despite the protests of the medical staff. The same night, at midnight, Ariha hospital was hit by multiple airstrikes, which led to major destruction of the building and its warehouse. Most of the hospital’s drugs and supplies and stock of fuel were damaged or lost and its pharmacy was destroyed, while dozens of wounded injured by the bombings were still rushed into the facility for treatment.
These incursions into and bombings of health facilities and the overall obstruction of healthcare come at a time when lifesaving medical care in Idlib is needed most. We strongly condemn the blatant violations of international humanitarian law in the destruction of medical facilities or their use for military purposes. Hospitals are not only closing one after the other, the health system is constantly under threat, whether coming from the sky or from the ground.