New attack on healthcare facilities in Syria

Published 15th January 2024

Drone attacks have rendered the health center in Kobanî, Syria unusable, where Doctors of the World have been working since 2020, caring for over 110,000 people. No personal injuries have been reported, but significant damage to infrastructure has occurred.

What happened?

  • On December 27th 2024, various towns in northeast Syria were hit by multiple airstrikes by the Turkish military, impacting civilian infrastructure, including the Mishtaneur health center, where our organisation operates.
  • Indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure violate international humanitarian law, and we call for the protection of healthcare infrastructure and health workers in this area, affected by over 12 years of conflict.

Various locations in northeast Syria have been targeted by the Turkish military using drones and aerial artillery. Multiple targets, including a fuel company, factories, power plants, and shops, have resulted in a total of six deaths and nine injuries.

Drone attacks have also rendered the Mishtaneur health center in Kobanî unusable, where we have been operating since 2020, providing services to over 110,000 people. While there have been no injuries, significant damage to our infrastructure has occurred.

The affected areas of this center include healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support, sexual and reproductive health, including a delivery room, pharmacy, warehouse, and waiting room. All medical equipment, medications, vaccines, consumables, hygiene materials, furniture, and tools, as well as mental health and psychosocial support equipment, including a children’s area, have been destroyed.

Additionally, it has been reported that another hospital specialising in dialysis and a medical oxygen factory have suffered another attack. This center, established in 2021 by health authorities, aimed to provide services to the entire region.

What is the humanitarian need in Syria?

More than 16 million people (25% more since 2022) depend on humanitarian assistance in a context where needs are increasing, while available funding is decreasing (in 2023, only 33.8% of the required funding for humanitarian needs in Syria was covered, and the health sector received only 20% of the necessary funding). Attacks like yesterday’s only worsen the living conditions of the Syrian population and displaced individuals, impacting their access to fundamental human rights, especially the right to health.

“Our organisation’s teams on the ground witness the rapid spread of epidemics such as cholera, measles, leishmaniasis, unknown acute respiratory infections, among others, affecting thousands of people in Syria. Particularly in densely populated internally displaced settlements, where poor hygiene conditions are high-risk factors for epidemic transmission, as well as for the exacerbation of basic health problems,” says Nicolás Dotta, General Director of Doctors of the World Spain.

More than a decade of conflict has forced many professionals to flee the country, leaving health centers and hospitals without sufficient staff, especially specialists like midwives, to meet the growing health needs of the Syrian population. Currently, only 61% of hospitals and 61% of primary care centers are operational in Syria. Since early 2023, over 50 health centers have closed primarily due to lack of funding.

“Indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure violate international humanitarian law. We call for respecting and preserving the integrity of infrastructure and healthcare personnel in this area, affected by over 12 years of conflict. States party to the Geneva Conventions are obligated to respect and ensure respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and must exert their influence, to the extent possible, to end IHL violations,” adds Dotta.

The response of Doctors of the World

Our teams on the ground are conducting damage assessments and exploring alternatives for services to continue. Our team and operations will be temporarily moved to other nearby primary healthcare centers to provide support, always under Doctors of the World’s safety protocols.

We are doing our best to minimise the impact that the damage done to our facility on access to healthcare. We are concerned that vaccination processes, diabetes care, and psychological support will be particularly affected.


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