Take Action To Stop The Targeting Of Hospitals And Medical Staff In Syria!
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My name is Dr. Anas Al-Kassem, I am a Bariatric Surgeon who has been practicing in Ontario for over 10 years and a co-founder of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), one of the largest medical aid agencies inside Syria. We have over 1,500 medical staff on the ground in Syria. I have been on countless surgical missions inside Syria to support 80 hospitals in the war torn country. Doctors who I have been working with are facing bombing and death every day. I have lost too many friends and colleagues.
The war in Syria is the biggest humanitarian disaster since World War II. Since the beginning of the conflict, the medical situation has continued to deteriorate. I want to talk about the fate of my fellow health care workers who are systematically targeted in this terrible war. This is in direct defiance of United Nations Resolutions and International Humanitarian Law. 732 medical staff have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011.
"To Kill A Healthcare Worker Is To Kill Humanity"
Our duty is to revolt against what is unacceptable; to kill doctors, nurses and midwives. This has been happening for 7 years now and it must be STOP. Attacks on hospitals and medical staff are war crimes and perpetrators must be held accountable.
According to the UOSSM Syrian Hospitals Report , all 107 hospitals in Aleppo, Idleb, Latakia, Hama, Daraa, Quneitra and Homs were attacked at least once by a direct or indirect air strike in 2016. Some were targeted up to 25 times with an average of three attacks per hospital.
I'm going to tell you the story of Dr. Ali Darwish, killed by poison gas on March 26, 2017 while he was operating on a patient in Latamneh hospital. The hospital was targeted by a chlorine gas attack and he did not want to leave the operating room until the surgery was done on the patient. He was asphyxiated and finally died enroute to another hospital. With Dr. Darwish gone, an entire population was left without access to medical care during war time, when it was needed most.
International humanitarian law, which codifies the laws of war, prohibits attacks on health institutions and medical staff. In the name of international humanitarian law and as a humanitarian doctor, I solemnly ask for:
1. The effective implementation of a resolution 2286 (2016), which prohibits attacks against medical facilities. That the government makes every possible effort to prevent these attacks and holds perpetrators accountable for war crimes.
2. The immediate opening of a safe, impartial humanitarian corridor for NGOs to deliver essential assistance to healthcare workers and care for neglected populations.
Resolution 2286 (2016): http://www.un.org/en/documents/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2286(2016)&TYPE=&referer=/en/&Lang=E
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