Airstrikes damage Save the Children-supported hospital in Syria

The old hospital in Quneitra, Syria (Credit: Will de Freitas/flickr)

A pair of airstrikes hit near a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib, damaging the facility, Save the Children officials said. There were no fatalities at the hospital from the attack – the twelfth attack on a health facility in April.

“Aid workers on the ground are reporting nine attacks on hospitals and clinics in just the last 72 hours,” Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria country director, said in a statement. “While the world turns the other way, the conflict is once again spiraling dangerously out of control.”

The hospital performs 550 births and serves 2,100 women and children each month, according to Save the Children. The blast damaged hospital windows and the incubator unit for premature babies. Health centers have come under attack throughout the Syrian civil war, leaving some areas without access to basic health services. In the case of this attack, some services provided at the hospital are not available within a 40-mile radius.

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A hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Syria was bombed in late March. Two people died and some patients suffered from severe respiratory symptoms. MSF had to transfer patients to another facility and the hospital lost its orthopedic surgeon. It leaves only two orthopedic surgeons for roughly 120,000 people, MSF in northern Syria Mission Head Massimiliano Rebaudengo said.

“Bombing hospitals, although banned by international humanitarian law, remains a common practice in Syria, and health services are severely affected by these repeated attacks,” he said in a statement.

More than 450 health-care facilities have been attacked over the course of the war, according to Physicians for Human Rights. The rate of attacks and fatalities peaked in the middle of 2012 and again in 2014. While the fatality rate declined in the past two years, the number of attacks remain high. It exacerbates the problems caused by the civil war where more than 10,000 people have died.

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Idlib is the same city that suffered a chemical weapons attack in early April. More than 70 people died as the result of the chemical weapons deployed by Syrian government forces. The use of the internationally banned weapons is consistent and systematic, according to a report released today by Human Rights Watch. Government warplanes dropped bombs with nerve agents at least four times since the middle of December, HRW officials said.

Human rights and aid organizations continue to pressure the governments involved in the fighting to protect civilians and medical facilities. They also want to see the groups guilty of violating international laws held accountable. Above all else, they want a solution to the conflict that will end the fighting.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.