More than 800 medical staff have been killed in Syria since March 2011, and more than half of all medical facilities are closed or are only partially functioning, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said during a Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed violence on Thursday.
“Despite our efforts, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict around the world,” Guterres told the 15-member body, stressing that attacks on medical staff and facilities continue in conflict zones.
“In Syria, Physicians for Human Rights has documented more than 400 attacks on medical facilities since the conflict began,” Guterres added.
The systematic targeting of medical facilities in the liberated areas by the Assad regime and its allies was well documented by many international human rights organizations, most notably Human Rights Watch. These attacks are the main cause of the deterioration of health services in the liberated areas.
“Attacks on hospitals and medical staff, and the removal of medical supplies from humanitarian convoys, are symptoms of a continued grave disregard for international law and the protection of civilians,” Guterres added.
The UN chief recalled that last year, the Council took specific action to improve the protection of medical care during conflict by adopting Resolution 2286. The resolution urged “states and all parties to armed conflict to develop effective measures to prevent and address acts of violence, attacks and threats against medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties.”
In August, his predecessor submitted recommendations for the swift implementation of this resolution.
“But on the ground, little has changed,” Guterres warned, citing statistics from the World Health Organization showing that attacks on medical care took place in at least 20 countries affected by conflict in 2016.
Guterres went on to highlight the three main protection priorities: ensuring greater respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, stepping up the protection of humanitarian and medical missions, and preventing forced displacement and finding durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced people.
Guterres urged parties to conflict to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, and urged arms suppliers to consider the potential consequences of any sales. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)