(Amman and Paris, 12 March 2019)
15 March marks the eighth year of a conflict seen less and less on our screens but which is all too real for people in Syria where impunity continues to reign supreme. Humanitarian needs, including for healthcare, are immense for the civilian population left devastated and shattered by a seemingly never-ending conflict. The Conference on Syria beginning in Brussels today, 12 March, must provide a robust response to these needs. Médecins du Monde – Doctors of the World (MdM) calls on the international community to not disengage from this crisis and step up its support to humanitarian aid organisations.
After eight years of a downward spiral, this humanitarian disaster has become intolerable not only for civilians remaining in Syria but also for those who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries:
－ Over 400,000 Syrians have died and 13.2 million others are in need of medical assistance in Syria, up from 11.3 million in March 2018. This is due to the combined effects of lack of access to medical care, a shortage of health workers, the destruction of numerous health centres, a decline in all services and a crisis that has lasted far too long;
－ 5.3 million Syrians are refugees dispersed across the world, with most in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey). Access to healthcare is a major issue because of the administrative and financial hurdles they are forced to contend with;
－ In a state of collapse after eight years of conflict, Syria’s health system is the target of choice for attack by the various protagonists. Two-thirds of health workers have now left the country;
－ People displaced internally to north-west and north-east Syria are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases caused by their appalling living conditions;
－ 15% of Syrians are in need of mental health services because of the trauma they have suffered. MdM struggles to assist them, but this invisible crisis will have repercussions for generations to come if those involved do not take account of their needs.
“After eight years of a devastating conflict, we thought we must have seen the worst. But as the years pass, there is increasing cause for alarm. The media’s lack of interest in what’s happening must not make us forget the ongoing tragedy, which notably affects health workers. How is it conceivable that Syria is the most dangerous country for medical staff, with 120 workers were killed in 2018? 70% of attacks on health workers in the world occur in Syria,” says Dr Philippe de Botton, president of MdM.
The Conference on Syria must at last take account of humanitarian needs
This is the context of the third international Conference on Syria beginning in Brussels today. Deployed in the country for many years, MdM is participating in the Conference to ensure humanitarian needs, which include health, are central to the discussions.
MdM calls on the European Union, United Nations and the region’s governments to not consider the Syrian emergency over, but to strengthen their commitment. The international community must respond to health needs and provide the means necessary to ensuring continuity in services left in shreds after eight years of conflict.
The Conference must also reiterate the necessity to comply with international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of health workers and the provision of medical care.