More Syria health facilities hit in first four months of 2018 than all last year

More Syria health facilities hit in first four months of 2018 than all last year
Despite the UN mechanisms placed to cut down on strikes on health facilities in Syria, attacks in 2018 so far exceed that of last year.
3 min read
19 May, 2018
Almost half of this year’s attacks took place in Ghouta [Getty]

The United Nations slammed Syria's escalation against health facilities as "shocking", saying that more facilities were attacked in the first four months of 2018 than all of last year combined.

They included four facilities hit after their locations were provided by the UN to the US and Russia, which co-chair a humanitarian task force on Syria, in an effort to "de-conflict" the clinics.

"Syria is the worst place in modern history in terms of attacks against health care," said Panos Moumtzis, the UN's regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria.

"Syria today accounts for nearly 70 percent of all reported attacks on health facilities worldwide."

Moumtzis added 79 health facilities were hit from the start of 2018 until May 4, killing 89 people including medical staff and patients.

That was more than the entirety of 2017, when the UN said 73 medical facilities were targeted in attacks that left 73 people dead.

Almost half of this year’s attacks took place in Ghouta, where Russia and the Syrian regime launched a huge offensive on the opposition enclave.

Another 37 attacks took place in the northwestern province of opposition Idlib, where hospitals, blood banks, and ambulance stations have been hit this year.

The increase comes despite the UN pushing a mechanism earlier in the year where they inform waring parties of their locations in the hope of reducing attacks

The GPS coordinates of 661 health facilities had been shared since the start of this year with Russia and the US, said Moumtzis, adding the system "came pretty late" in a conflict infamous for its impact on health infrastructure.

"There were four specific incidents where despite the notification, an attack took place. Two were in Eastern Ghouta, and two were in northern Homs," he said.

According to the UN, the two sites hit in Ghouta were a hospital in the town of Arbin in late March and a children's hospital in the town of Douma in early April.

In Homs, two facilities in the town of Zafraniyeh were hit in late April. Troops also recaptured opposition-held villages in the northern part of Homs province this week.

"The assumption is not that these attacks have been on accident. If a health facility gets targeted, some of them multiple times, it's not collateral damage," said Moumtzis.

Reports of the incidents were submitted to the UN's humanitarian task force.

The US has denied being militarily active in either area.

More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Russia and the Syrian regime have been blamed for routinely hitting hospitals, by human rights groups and NGOs, along with other civilian areas.