Amman, Jordan, March 21, 2021 — Artillery shelling has hit a hospital run by the IRC’s partner organization SAMS in Al Atareb. There have been 6 deaths and at least 16 people injured. The hospital is now out of service.
Rehana Zawar, the International Rescue Committee’s Country Director for northwest Syria, said:
We utterly condemn this deadly attack on the surgical hospital in Atareb. 6 people have been killed, including a child, and 16 further civilians have been wounded, including 5 health staff. 4 of the injured are in a critical condition. Although SAMS shared the hospital’s coordinates through the UN’s notification system, it came under attack and has now been damaged so severely that it can no longer be used. This is the 5th attack on health care that has been recorded so far this year, and brings the total number of attacks on health care since January 2019 to 118. IRC-supported health facilities have been attacked 24 times since 2018 alone. Health facilities are protected under international law and should be safe havens in times of crisis, but after 10 years of war this is not the case in Syria. Since the start of the conflict, Physicians for Human Rights have documented close to 600 attacks on health care. Past experience shows that any uptick in attacks on health care in the northwest can foreshadow a new escalation in violence. It is vital that today’s attack is not repeated over the coming weeks. We urge all parties to the conflict to abide by the ceasefire, to uphold their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and to work towards bringing a peaceful end to the war in Syria.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its Syrian partner organizations the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), Independent Doctors Association (IDA), the Syrian Expatriates Medical Association (SEMA), Sustainable International Medical Relief Organization (SIMRO), Syria Relief and Development (SRD) and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organization (UOSSM) launched a report this month - A Decade of Destruction: Attacks on health care in Syria - about the devastating impact that attacks on hospitals and clinics have had on patients and health workers. 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
- 81% of health workers had a coworker or patient who was killed or injured due to an attack
- 77% had witnessed an average of 4 attacks on health care - some had witnessed as many as 20
- 68% were inside a health facility when it was attacked
- 59% of civilians had been directly impacted by an attack on a health facility, 49% fear accessing healthcare as a result of attacks
The IRC is calling on the United Nations and world leaders to strengthen accountability for violations of international law so that they no longer continue with impunity and so that people in Syria can safely access the health care they need.
About the IRC in northwest Syria
The IRC has been delivering aid in Syria since 2012, and last year the IRC and partners delivered health, protection, and livelihoods to over 900,000 people in the country. In northwest Syria, the IRC and its partners the IRC and its partners reached over 318,000 patients in 2020 through 17 health facilities: 2 hospitals - including 1 COVID isolation hospital, 2 mobile clinics, 12 primary health care centres and 1 mental health centre. Additionally, we have one fleet of 10 ambulances, 5 of which are dedicated to the COVID-19 response, transporting suspected cases to testing facilities and then transferring them for treatment. In addition to our ambulances, our response to the pandemic includes implementing infection, prevention and control measures across all IRC supported health facilities; training staff in how to protect themselves and their patients from the virus; and continuing to raise awareness of the pandemic in the communities where we and our partners operate. The IRC also provides specialist care to vulnerable women and girls, pregnant women and the elderly; provides psychosocial support to help children and their families overcome emotional distress; and helps thousands of Syrians gain an income through emergency cash distributions, business grants and training.