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Understanding and Preventing Attacks on Health Facilities During Armed Conflict in Syria

Authors Omar A

Received 7 November 2019

Accepted for publication 31 January 2020

Published 18 March 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 191—203


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Marco Carotenuto

Abdulaziz Omar

Institute for Global Health, University College London, London, UK

Correspondence: Abdulaziz Omar
Institute for Global Health, University College London, London, UK

Background: Despite healthcare facilities being deemed untouchable in times of conflict, the war in Syria has seen its government as well as opposition forces, target their people and infrastructure as a strategy of war. Violations of medical neutrality and International Humanitarian Law has led to the loss of countless medical personnel, civilians and health care facilities; setting the country back to health levels last seen thirty years ago. It is evident through the strategy of the Syrian and Russian government that healthcare facilities are being deliberately targeted with humanitarian organisations condemning all parties involved for violating the Geneva Conventions. The report examines the impact of the conflict in Syria on its health facilities and looks at the reasons why these services are under attack and the international response to the conflict. The report concludes by looking into plans currently implemented to protect our healthcare infrastructure during times of war whilst comparing it to past strategies.
Methods: A literature review was conducted for the study with information and data collected through several search engines including Google Scholar, PubMed, MEDLINE, OVID and searches through Google. The keywords mapped to find relevant literature includes “Syria”, “healthcare”, “health care worker”, “humanitarian aid”, and “volunteer”, “International Humanitarian Law”, “Geneva Convention”. The majority of the data used was adapted from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Limitations included using sources written in English due to limited resources to translate literature in Arabic.
Results: The conflict in Syria and deliberate targeting of healthcare facilities has left services decimated with an estimated 782 medical personnel killed during this time; doctors accounting for 32% of total deaths in the five years. Several facilities are also operating at 1% or less functionality.
Conclusion: The results and review highlight the need for protection of health facilities from humanitarian violations as health care continues to be targeted as a strategy of war. The number of attacks has steadily remained constant throughout the years and nothing seems to be done in bringing perpetrators to justice for violations of International Humanitarian Law. The paper calls for more public attention to shed light on the atrocities being committed and further inquiries like the preliminary carried out by The Lancet – American University of Beirut.

Keywords: Syria, health attacks, international humanitarian law, health workers, health professionals

Creative Commons License This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. The full terms of the License are available at The license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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