Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis and the Doctors Who Risk Their Lives to Address It

The Syrian government escorted a team of UN technical staff into the country this week. Although this ostensible show of glasnost may look encouraging, restricting UN agencies’ access will result in an unreliable assessment of Syria’s humanitarian needs.

As the number of casualties rises, so does the urgency for humanitarian relief. This week, even Russia – which has until now blocked all UN efforts in Syria – announced willingness to back a UN presidential statement allowing humanitarian corridors and daily breaks in fighting.

And yet while the international community grapples with how best to respond to Syria’s humanitarian crisis, local doctors risk life and limb to care for Syria’s sick and wounded.

Government authorities’ outright assault on medical facilities in the country forces doctors to treat patients in secret through an underground network of clandestine field hospitals. These doctors work in unsterile environments with only the most basic equipment, defying arrest, torture, and even death for the “crime” of providing lifesaving care.

PHR has documented the reported deaths of 55 medical professionals in Syria since the violence began a year ago.

Government attacks on doctors, hospitals, and patients constitute severe violations of medical neutrality; such attacks are also a significant barrier to protecting the health and lives of all Syrians.

Syrian medical students, Red Crescent workers, and courageous health professionals are rushing to the defense of wounded civilians with a speed that the international community must match. Will we do it?

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