Syria: Medical staff and patient killed in an attack on MSF-supported hospital

A hospital in northern Syria supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been hit in an aerial attack.

At around 6 pm on 25 March, Latamneh hospital in northern Hama governorate was targeted by a bomb dropped by a helicopter, which hit the entrance of the building. Information collected by the hospital medical staff suggests that chemical weapons were used.

Immediately after the impact, patients and staff reported suffering severe respiratory symptoms and burning of mucous membranes – symptoms consistent with an attack using chemicals.

Two people died as a result of the attack, including Dr Darwish, the hospital’s orthopaedic surgeon. Thirteen people were transferred for treatment to other facilities.

“The loss of Dr Darwish leaves just two orthopaedic surgeons for a population of around 120,000,” says Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF’s head of mission in northern Syria.

Following the attack, the hospital went out of service for three days, after which the emergency room reopened.

Latamneh hospital is located a few kilometres from the frontline between government and opposition forces, and provides medical care for a population of around 8,000. Prior to the attacks, the hospital had an emergency room and inpatient department, and provided general and orthopaedic surgery.

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

Despite a new round of peace talks between warring parties, which began in January, increased fighting is taking place on several fronts. In northern Hama governorate, 40,000 people have recently fled their homes due to the fighting.

Over the past year, MSF has received reports of at least 71 attacks on at least 32 different health facilities which it runs or supports in Syria. As recently as 22 February, an MSF-supported health facility in Idlib governorate was hit by rockets, killing six and wounding 33.

MSF directly operates four health facilities in northern Syria and provides support to more than 150 health facilities countrywide.