Amnesty International warned on Thursday of a looming health crisis in northwest Syria due to a drop in international assistance to hospitals and other medical facilities, where doctors and medical teams are struggling to operate with low resources.
“This past year’s massive funding drop has immediately translated into the closure of hospitals and vital services, and has left millions of Syrians struggling to access medication and other essential health care,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Maalouf called on international donors meeting in Brussels next week to prioritize ensuring adequate funding for health and other essential services as millions of people face the appalling prospect of being denied access to health care amid a worsening crisis.
Amnesty International interviewed eight doctors and health workers, four people who recently sought medical care and four humanitarian aid workers, each of whom described how the funding cuts have led to a shortage of resources and medication, leading to a scaling-down of operations and vital services.
“Before the funding cuts in December 2021, we used to receive about 500 outpatients and inpatients a day. Today, we can receive 10 percent of that number, because we suspended all services except for basic treatment in the emergency room,” the manager of an obstetrics and pediatrics hospital said.
“Donors have the power to rectify this devastating situation. Their decisions have a direct impact on people’s access to healthcare at a time when they are suffering more than ever. What is happening in north-west Syria right now is a terrible humanitarian crisis,” Maalouf added.
Amnesty’s warning came as the Union of Doctors in the Raqqa governorate in northern Syria warned that the current health situation poses a major challenge to the fragile medical sector.
Farhad Jumaan, head of the Union in Raqqa, said the city suffered from a shortage of doctors in some specialties and lack of them altogether in others.
The city has only three ophthalmologists, three neurosurgeons, one anesthesiologist, and one pathologist, “a very small number compared to the population density in Raqqa and its countryside,” according to Jumaan.
He also said that the city of Raqqa lacks an oncologist, forcing patients to go to other Syrian cities for treatment.
“Over 600 doctors are present in Raqqa city and its countryside, which is enough relevant to the population, but the absence of some specialties impedes the treatment of specific diseases,” he added.