Syria 'on brink of medical catastrophe'

Syria 'on brink of medical catastrophe'
Union of Syrian Medical groups says four years of war have brought health services to point of collapse, with barely functioning hospitals and return of diseases such as polio, typhoid and TB.
2 min read
06 January, 2015
War injuries and disease are rife, the relief group said [Getty]

Syria is facing a "medical and humanitarian disaster" and the return of eradicated diseases after nearly four years of war, a group of Syrian doctors have warned.

Diseases such as polio and scabies have returned as many children are no longer vaccinated, typhoid and TB are rife and the majority of births take place at home, according to the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM).

In comments made in Paris late on Monday, the group said 250 doctors had been killed since the start of the war, and gave the example of no more than 30 doctors for 360,000 people living in rebel-held eastern areas of Aleppo.

     Aside from war injuries we are seeing the resurgence of diseases like polio, tuberculosis, scabies or typhoid.

"The situation is unbearable, catastrophic and many in Syria no longer have access to medical care," said Oubaida al-Moufti, a French-Syrian doctor and member of the UOSSM.

Moufti said that four out of five births in Syria were now taking place at home.

A doctor from Aleppo said the city has only five hospitals - three of which are only partially functioning.

"There are no more than 30 doctors, from a variety of specialities. Aside from war injuries we are seeing the resurgence of diseases like polio, tuberculosis, scabies or typhoid," said the doctor, who gave his name only as Abdelaziz.

Another doctor described the "intolerable" situation in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus which has been under siege by government forces for two years where "it is not possible to get humanitarian aid in".

And in the Islamic State group's stronghold Raqqa, home to 1.6 million people, one doctor said there were "no  obstetrics, gynaecological or paediatric services".

The UOSSM doctors try and work in all zones, whether held by government forces, rebels or IS fighters.

"We are neutral, but we experience violence from all sides, and no one has any guarantees from anyone," said the association, which has a list of 250 doctors killed in Syria since war broke out in March 2011.

Tawfik Chamaa, a UOSSM representative in Switzerland, condemned what he called an international "silence" on the daily suffering of Syrians.

"All the media talks about now is extremism. But not the women and children who are killed, the bodies torn to shreds, open stomachs, that which we deal with daily as doctors," he said.

More than 200,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Millions of civilians have also fled to neighbouring states.