November 27, 2017
Amid the intense diplomatic activity over the Syrian crisis, Médecins du Monde (MdM) points out that the war is far from over and the humanitarian situation remains extremely critical, with thousands of people still being trapped, killed or wounded and displaced. Regular targets of relentless airstrikes, hospitals and health workers are also paying a heavy price. Yet again, Médecins du Monde wishes to alert opinion to this truly catastrophic situation and urge respect for international humanitarian law.
Prior to the resumption of peace talks to resolve the Syrian conflict to be held in Geneva on 28 November, a summit is underway in the presence of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey in Sochi. Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has provided an extremely grim overview of humanitarian needs in Syria which show no sign of abating: “13.1 million people require humanitarian assistance, 5.6 million of them urgently due to limited access to essential items and services.”
In spite of the Astana agreement that provides for the setting up of de-escalation zones, a deluge of bombs continue to pound all of Syria—Idlib, Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor provinces in the north and northeast, Homs and Hama in the centre, Daraa in the south and the region around Damascus. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 61 people, most of them civilians, were killed on 13 November in airstrikes on a market in Atareb (west Aleppo province), even though the town is situated in an area where government forces and armed opposition groups are supposed to have stopped using all types of weapons.
According to the SOHR, since the 1st January 2017, unprecedented levels of violence have resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 people—1,000 of them civilians. The fighting is continuing to cause massive population displacements, with around 6,550 people forced to flee every day. For them, the war is far from over.
Hospitals—which international law is supposed to protect—are also attacked and sometimes reduced to rubble. Physicians for Human Rights documented a succession of seven attacks in five days alone in September, the deadliest month to date. And, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, over half of Syria’s medical facilities are now in ruins, depriving more than 100,000 of its citizens access to medical care.
The task of humanitarian aid workers has become even more complex and dangerous. Médecins du Monde is continuing its support to its local partners who, despite the huge challenges they face, continue with courage and determination to provide assistance to the sick and wounded.
In this dramatic context, Médecins du Monde once again calls for protection for civilians and medical personnel and facilities. International humanitarian law must be respected by all parties to the conflict and the population’s access to medical care and their fundamental rights guaranteed.