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Press Release

After 10 years, Syria crisis remains a major, acute humanitarian emergency

Marking 10 years since the start of the war in Syria, Misty Buswell - Policy and Advocacy Director for the IRC in the Middle East and North Africa - said:

“The crisis in Syria remains a major, acute humanitarian emergency. Shelling and airstrikes continue to this day, and at least 7 civilians have been killed in just the past 2 weeks. As the enormous death toll continues to rise, the suffering of people in Syria is continuing to deepen. Over the past year, the economic situation has deteriorated so significantly that people can no longer afford to buy food to feed their families. Children are being sent out to work. People are begging in the streets. The country is now on the brink of the worst hunger crisis it has ever seen and at the same time, health needs are also continuing to grow. 

“Over the past decade, attacks on hospitals and health facilities have become a hallmark of the Syrian conflict and have left the country woefully unprepared to support the 12 million Syrians now in need of health assistance - let alone able to respond to the pandemic. Already this year the UN have documented 4 attacks on health care, over the past 2 years they have recorded 113 and since the start of the war Physicians for Human Rights have documented close to 600. As a result, an estimated 70% of the workforce has left the country and those who remain are also constantly aware that they could come under attack at any moment. In a recent IRC survey, we found that attacks on health care were cited as one of the top challenges facing health workers second only to a persistent lack of medicines. Health care is protected under international law, yet these targeted attacks continue to take place with impunity. After 10 years of suffering, it is vital that these attacks are investigated and that those responsible are identified and held to account. Without accountability, the attacks will not stop, Syrians will continue to suffer and the civilian death toll will continue to rise. We urge all parties to the conflict to prioritise the safety of civilians, to ensure their protection and to bring an end to the deadly conflict.”

The International Rescue Committee has launched a new report - A Decade of Destruction: Attacks on health care in Syria - about the devastating impact that attacks on hospitals and clinics have had on the people who seek treatment in them, as well as the people who work inside them. The report documents with chilling detail how this 10-year war strategy has turned hospitals from safe havens into no-go zones where Syrian civilians now fear for their lives. 

Key findings from IRC surveys of 237 people + 74 health workers on 10th anniversary of the conflict

  • 81% of surveyed health workers said they had a coworker or patient who had been injured or killed due to an attack 
  • 77% had witnessed an average of four attacks on health care - some had witnessed as many as 20 over the course of the war
  • 68% were inside a health facility when it was attacked
  • 59% of civilians surveyed had been directly impacted by an attack on a health facility during the course of the conflict 
  • 49% fear accessing healthcare as a result of attacks
  • 8 in 10 indicate having fled home at least 6 times during the conflict - some as many as 25 times

About the IRC in Syria

The IRC has been delivering aid into Syria since 2012. In 2020, the IRC and our partner organizations reached over 900,000 Syrians inside their country – hundreds of IRC workers, plus incentive workers, are helping some of the most vulnerable civilians inside Syria by providing:

  • Health care – over 545,000 people in 2020 were treated in IRC-supported clinics and hospitals, and by mobile health teams.
  • Support to women and girls – the IRC helped over 42,500 vulnerable women and girls, including survivors of assault and abuse, find safety and support
  • Safety – we supported over 30,000 Syrians to get vital documents to move more freely and access services
  • Economic wellbeing – almost 160,000 Syrians were supported with IRC job training and cash or vouchers to help them buy food and other essential items for their families
  • Child protection and informal education – more than 123,000 children had safe places to play and learn, as well as access to psychosocial support to help them overcome distress and deal with their emotions
About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.