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The extreme violence perpetrated against civilians during six years of war in Syria shows no sign of abating.
Civilian areas have been routinely bombed and deprived of assistance. Access to food and healthcare remains extremely poor, especially in places under siege. Many hospitals are facing critical shortages of supplies and staff, as so many health workers have fled or been killed. Well over half of the Syrian population have been forced from their homes by the conflict. According to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, more than 4.8 million people have sought refuge abroad and another six million are internally displaced. Many remain trapped in areas that are under siege or stranded at the closed borders of neighbouring countries.
Medical facilities, staff and patients have been victims of indiscriminate and targeted attacks. In 2016, 32 medical facilities receiving support from MSF were bombed or shelled on 71 separate occasions. In one attack on 15 February, an MSF-supported hospital in Ma’arat Al Numan, Idlib governorate was hit by four missiles. Twenty-five people were killed and 11 were wounded, including hospital staff, patients, caretakers and visitors. On 27 April, at least 55 people, including patients and medical staff, were killed when airstrikes hit the MSF-supported Al Quds hospital and the surrounding neighbourhood in Aleppo city. According to the American University of Beirut Commission on Syria, 814 health workers have been killed since the war began.
MSF’s direct presence is significantly constrained in a country where it should be running some of its largest medical programmes. The Syrian government has not granted MSF authorisation to operate in the country, despite repeated requests, and insecurity has limited MSF’s ability to provide assistance in opposition-controlled areas. Following the Islamic State (IS) group’s abduction and release of MSF staff in 2014, and the impossibility of obtaining the necessary safety guarantees from its leadership, MSF withdrew from IS-controlled areas.
In 2016, MSF continued to operate directly in six medical facilities in regions controlled by other opposition forces across northern Syria and provide distance support to Syrian medical networks in areas where MSF cannot be directly present.
Year MSF first worked in the country: 2009.
|Relief kits distributed||5,300|
|No. staff in 2016||455|
|Expenditure 2016||€39.4 million|
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