For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is calling on the U.S. government to immediately enter into high-level negotiations with the Russian government to ensure unfettered access in Syria for the International Committee of the Red Cross and other U.N. and humanitarian organizations that urgently need to provide vital services and supplies.
With millions of people displaced, a destroyed infrastructure, and a health care system in ruins, Syria is experiencing a sharp rise in malnutrition, as well as infectious diseases, including polio, typhoid, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, dysentery, measles, and leishmaniasis. Even the most basic supplies and resources – such as drinking water, fuel, bread, blood, sutures, saline solution, antibiotics, syringes, gauze, and vaccinations – are beyond the reach of those affected by the conflict.
“The U.S. and Russian governments should negotiate a framework for humanitarian access with the same urgency and leadership shown during talks about the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons,” said Hans Hogrefe, PHR’s chief policy officer and Washington director. “Ensuring that these agencies can do their work on the ground will help alleviate a public health crisis that worsens with each day.”
More than 100,000 people have been killed, and almost nine million have been driven from their homes during the civil war in Syria. The government and opposition parties have both committed war crimes, including the use of chemical weapons, executions of individuals, acts of torture and sexual violence, as well as deliberate attacks on medical facilities and staff. All of these crimes violate international humanitarian law and require the international community to act in order to bring perpetrators to justice.
Both sides have continuously engaged in attacking Syria’s health system, and government forces have repeatedly shelled hospitals and detained, harassed, and attacked doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, and medical volunteers, according to a recent U.N. report. As of September, nearly 40 percent of Syria’s hospitals have reportedly been destroyed, and 20 percent have been severely damaged. Many doctors have fled the country; in Aleppo, only 36 doctors reportedly remain, compared to over 5,000 before the war.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.