Aleppo, Syria, November 21, 2016 — In the last few days, all three of the medical centers and hospitals that the International Rescue Committee supports in East Aleppo have been hit, leaving no medical facilities for civilians in which to seek vital, life-saving services. As the world learns more of these latest attacks, the IRC relays what we are hearing from the ground, from those most impacted: Syrians.
One civilian currently in East Aleppo tells us that the city today can only be depicted as a ghost town; the intensity of the airstrikes over the past six days has meant it has become too dangerous for anyone to leave their homes. Civilians in Aleppo tell the IRC that they live in constant fear. As they hear jets flying over their heads, they picture their homes getting hit at night, knowing there would be nothing they could do--no way of running to safety or finding shelter. Because of bombardment, they expect to die at any moment from a missile falling from the sky. Because of bunker-buster bombs, they know that even underground they cannot be safe. In these conditions, they expect any shelter to collapse on their heads at any moment.
Due to living under 24-hour bombardment, civilians can only describe to the IRC its terrible mental toll--of seeing so many people killed, including their neighbors, friends, family members, and children-of seeing so much carnage, blood and body parts after attacks that as one man in East Aleppo describes, their mental health is deteriorating even quicker than their physical health.
Yet, the physical costs cannot be underestimated. Syrians are exhausted as they now live through another, second siege. The food that arrived during the last aid delivery in July, has all been all used up. As cold winter approaches, they head towards it without any fuel to keep warm and very little food to survive.
In these dire psychological and physical strains, medical care is vital. Prior to recent attacks, there were only 31 doctors for the 250,000 people who live there, with each doctor valiantly trying to see 150 patients a day, despite addressing limited capacity from the casualties of a single missile attack. Now, that there are no hospitals left operating in East Aleppo, civilians describe widespread fears of contacting even the slightest illness or any injury, knowing it could mean certain death.
An attack on a hospital is an attack on the tens of thousands of civilians who rely on its medical care to keep them alive. It is clear that until the international community is able to hold those responsible for these abuses to account, nothing can be done to protect civilians.