MIAMI, Florida — The Syrian Civil War and the international military campaign against extremist organizations like the Islamic State are threatening many of the hospitals in Syria and Iraq, in both their everyday function and their existence.
In Mosul, Iraq, the international coalition and Iraqi security forces are seven weeks into the largest military undertaking since the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq, according to The Associated Press. Civilian casualties are mounting as steadily as combatants in the city, and inundated hospitals are becoming quickly overwhelmed.
The al-Salam hospital in the east of the city was recently challenged by Iraqi security forces. Islamic State militants used the hospital to lure security forces in and ambush them. After the security forces retreated, U.S. coalition aircraft bombed the hospital despite its reluctance to destroy hospital infrastructure and equipment, according to Associated Press reports on the skirmish.
This concern is shared by many, including U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande. As she remarked to Reuters, vulnerable hospitals are still “doing everything they can” to deal with all of the wounded despite the dearth of equipment, supplies and staff. “Civilians are being targeted by [Islamic State],” she added.
In Aleppo, Syria, no hospitals remain to care for the hundreds of thousands in the city’s eastern neighborhoods trapped by the intensifying push by government forces to eliminate the desperate rebel hold, The New York Times reports.
The Associated Press reports that civilians, including wounded, are no longer accessible by evacuation efforts, citing U.N. special adviser Jan Egeland. This despite the closure of two general hospitals and a children’s hospital following an attack by Syrian government forces.
“It is with bitterness and frustration that we have to report that we have not been able to evacuate the wounded,” he said. All parties to the conflict shared at least some blame for this development, including the United States and Russia, Egeland said.
Some positive developments have occurred in Mosul and Aleppo despite the catastrophic fighting. The International Committee of the Red Cross, working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, evacuated nearly 150 civilians with disabilities and others in need of treatment who were left behind in the rebel-held areas amidst the fighting. And, though no official hospitals remain in those areas, the head of a forensic facility in Aleppo’s east said that “the medics and staff are still functioning with high energy”, despite the horrific conditions.
The Guardian reports that some activists began a new approach recently to garner awareness about the medical and health conditions in conflict zones, like the situation affecting hospitals in Syria and Iraq. They are taking advantage of the internet by filming, photographing and sharing the stories of the conditions in public health and besieged hospitals.
They hope the more that people are aware of the situations affecting hospitals in Syria and Iraq, the more they will be able to denounce the conditions as wrong, call for change and accountability and, ultimately, be better positioned to prevent such conditions from occurring again.
– James Collins