Syria: 2016 was the most dangerous year for health workers

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) has released a new report on the health situation in Syria. Titled The Failure of UN Security Council Resolution 2286 in Preventing Attacks on Healthcare in Syria, this report documents 172 attacks on medical facilities and personnel from June through December 2016, using first-hand testimony and photo documentation from physicians and health workers in Syria.

According to SAMS, 2016 was the most dangerous year for health workers in Syria, especially the latter half of the year. The sad conclusion would be that since the adoption of Resolution 2286 condemning attacks against medical facilities and personnel in conflict situations by the UN Security Council in May 2016, the rate of attacks on health care increased by 89% to one attack every 29 hours. In the second half of 2016, 23 medical staff were injured and 14 were killed. It is assumed that 168 of the 172 documented attacks were committed by the Syrian government and its allies, the majority by aerial bombardment.SAMS states that the high volume of hospital targeting in this timeframe is linked to two main factors:

  • Russia’s intervention in Syria, beginning in October 2016 – Immediately following the Russian intervention, the rate of attacks on health care doubled, from one attack every four days to one attack every 48 hours.
  • The Syrian government’s offensive on Aleppo – 73 attacks occurred in besieged Aleppo, which accounts to 42 percent of the total attacks documented in in the reporting period.

The report also documents the use of advanced and unconventional weaponry. Between June and December 2016, there were 9 instances of cluster munitions, which are prohibited under international law, being used to target medical facilities and personnel. Incendiary weapons were used 7 times, and there were 4 reported cases of bunker buster bombs.

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