The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) published a report on January 11, 2017, that surveys attacks on healthcare facilities and medical workers across Syria in 2016. According to the twenty page document, a total of 252 hospitals and medical staff were targeted last year, mostly by aerial bombardment.
The report claims that at least 172 of these attacks took place during the latter half of 2016—between June and December—and that the Syrian government and its Russian allies were responsible for at least 98% of them. Additionally, 42% of all attacks during the second half of 2016 occurred in Eastern Aleppo alone, and ultimately led to the complete destruction of every last hospital in the city by November.
Throughout the year, all forms of medical facilities, including ambulances, were allegedly targeted by the regime and its allies. This includes “[b]irth centers, incubator units, primary health centers, asthma centers, insulin clinics, psychological support centers, ambulatory facilities, vaccination centers, makeshift hospitals, and even a forensic medicine center.” SAMS’s own hospitals in Syria, which are some of the most fortified and protected, were also targeted by bunker busters and destroyed on at least two occasions. In both instances, the affected hospitals were forced to end their services.
There was an average of approximately one attack every two days on medical facilities in 2016, an increase from one every four days in 2015. This meant that health workers and hospitals were almost constantly under fire last year. Even ceasefires, which generally reduced hostilities, failed to substantially protect hospitals and health workers against death and destruction.
SAMS’s report also highlights the failure of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2286, which “strongly condemned” attacks against medical facilities, but did not mitigate the country’s healthcare crisis in any way at all. In fact, as the report shows, the UN Resolution not only failed to protect hospitals and health workers, but “the rate of attacks increased increased to once every 29 hours—an 89 percent increase” after its passage.
SAMS believes that unless a lasting truce is realized, the only way Syrian hospitals and medical workers can reasonably avoid the same calamities in 2017 is if hospital facilities are fortified to withstand constant bombardment. As such, “[u]ntil options beyond condemnations are considered, targeting health workers will continue to be an acceptable strategy in Syria’s conflict.”
Read the full report here.