Attacks on Medical Care in Syria


Attacks on Syria's medical community and infrastructure have devastated the health-care system. Government forces – and sometimes opposition groups – have deliberately targeted medical professionals, hospitals, ambulances, and supplies, preventing untold numbers of people from getting medical care and stopping medical professionals from providing services when they are critically needed. In a ruthless conflict, where depriving civilians of food and medical care has become a military tactic, medical professionals have become high-value targets.

As our recently released factsheet shows, only 30 doctors reportedly remained in eastern Ghouta – located on the outskirts of Damascus – as of December, 2013, out of more than 1000 who were working there before the conflict. As of September, 2013, an estimated 15,000 doctors had fled Syria altogether. Numerous medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged. In Homs, almost half of the public health centres are no longer functioning.

Doctors and other medical personnel have an ethical obligation to provide care regardless of patients’ political affiliations, ethnicity, race, or other factors. States are obligated to protect physicians’ ability to objectively heal the sick and treat the injured under the principle of medical neutrality, which is embedded in international humanitarian law. Medical neutrality ensures safe access to medical facilities, protects health-care workers and their patients, and allows medical workers to provide unbiased care. However, physicians and other health workers in Syria are often seen as the enemy, being harassed, intimidated, tortured, and killed for doing their job of treating everyone.

The full article continues at on The Lancet’s Global Health Blog.