MSF-supported hospital in Syria destroyed in attack

Latest update: 17 February 2016

An MSF-supported hospital in Idlib province in northern Syria was destroyed in an attack on Monday morning. So far, the death toll stands at 25 people, with 11 people wounded.

The hospital was hit four times in two attacks within a few minutes of each other. Nine MSF-supported staff have been confirmed killed, 10 have been wounded. Sixteen people, including patients, caretakers and visitors, have been killed, one of whom was a child. One other person has been recorded wounded.

“This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms,” said Massimiliano Rebaudengo, MSF’s Head of Mission.

“The destruction of the hospital leaves the local population of around 40,000 people without access to medical services in an active zone of conflict,” Rebaudengo said.

The 30-bed hospital had 54 staff, two operating theatres, an outpatient department and emergency room.

MSF has been supporting this hospital since September 2015 and covered all the needs of the hospital including provision of medical supplies and running costs.

The current death toll is likely to rise as staff inside were not aware of how many patients were in the structure when it was attacked.

“When the hospital was hit, it was the time of the changeover from the night to the day shift, and the patient count had not been carried out,” added Rebaudengo. “We do not know if the facility will reopen in another location”.

Rescue workers are still looking through the rubble and starting to clean up the area.

Country background

With the conflict in Syria now in its sixth year, the humanitarian and medical toll of the violence remains appalling.

MSF in Syria 2014

135,600 outpatient consultations
4,900 relief kits distributed
4,400 surgical interventions
£12.08m expenditure
729 MSF staff

Millions of people have been internally displaced, or have sought refuge abroad. Millions more are trapped in communities that are under siege or hemmed in by the closed borders of neighbouring countries.

These countries, already overwhelmed by the numbers of Syrians seeking protection, have increasingly introduced restrictions on entry for new arrivals.

Meanwhile the level of violence inside the country shows no signs of abating. Death and injury is a daily reality.

The year 2015 saw an increased number of countries engaging their military and entering the war. Russia intervened in September on the invitation of the Syrian government, with significant use of its air force, while France and the UK extended their air campaigns under the US led coalition from Iraq to Syria in September and December.

This situation is unprecedented, as four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are now actively engaged in hostilities in the Syrian conflict.

With millions of people in need of assistance, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) – who has worked in the country since 2009 – should be running some of the largest medical programmes in its 44-year history, but it is prevented from doing so.

Violence and insecurity, attacks on health facilities and medical workers, the absence of government authorisation and the reneging by armed groups on guarantees of safety for our teams have been some of the main obstacles to a more extensive programme of medical humanitarian aid.

MSF in and around Syria

A map of MSF's activities in Syria, as of January 2015.

Patient story

A man who brought his sister to an MSF field hospital

“We heard the sound of explosions… I told my sister to move and find shelter, as it was close. She was behind me, about five metres. A bomb landed near her. She was covered in rubble. I shouted: “Are you hurt, sister?” She replied: “Yes, I am!” I ran towards her and saw that shrapnel had hit her face. Blood was coming out of her neck … We shouted for a car. Thankfully there was one nearby. We took her to the hospital, where they stopped the bleeding. Her situation is stable now.

If there were no hospital, she’d have died. We need medical care. In my sister’s case, she needs doctors, care, drugs. As you know, we have nothing here. We need support in medication, doctors, ambulances capable of transporting patients immediately, everything.”

Staff story

An MSF-supported hospital director describes the horror of a mass-casualty influx in northwest Syria.

“The planes circled above us in the late afternoon and we waited. Would we become casualties? Would we become numbers?

“At around 3pm we heard a deafening sound as a result of three rockets exploding in a town nearby. A town overwhelmed, desperate locals living alongside many displaced people from other areas in Syria…

“There was blood everywhere, but we were running out of blood bags. Men and women donated their own blood to strangers.

“With the descent of night it became impossible to find people alive under the rubble. We will continue to find dead bodies in the next few days.

“As a medical team, the only choice we have is to replenish our supplies, gather our hopes, and prepare for the next tragedy.”

Read more MSF accounts from Syria on the MSF blog

Hover over the image below for an interactive guide to MSF in Syria

MSF’s work in Syria: 2014

In January, so-called ‘Islamic State’ gunmen abducted 13 MSF staff. While eight Syrian colleagues were released hours later, five international staff members were held for five months.

Because of the insecurity, we had to withdraw international teams and close a field hospital in Jabal al-Akrad, in Idlib governorate, and two nearby health centres.

We were able to keep open a different 15-bed hospital in Idlib, where our teams treated some 5,800 patients in the emergency room, treated 1,800 burn victims, and performed more than 3,800 surgical interventions.

We also vaccinated more than 11,000 children from displaced families against measles and provided routine vaccines for children younger than three.

Aleppo

In 2014, we ran three health facilities in Aleppo governorate, an area of intense fighting.

One has 28 beds and offers emergency, maternity, and outpatient care, along with vaccinations, , orthopedic services and chronic disease care.

A second was closed in August for security reasons. It had provided healthcare for adults and children, including surgery, burn care, maternity services, and ante and postnatal care.

MSF’s other hospital in Aleppo governorate carried out around 22,000 outpatient consultations, more than 12,300 emergency room consultations and more than 500 surgical interventions, while also offering vaccinations, antenatal care, and mental health support.

Ar-Raqqah

In Ar-Raqqah, where health centres struggle to maintain supplies and staff, MSF ran a clinic and supported a paediatric ward in Tal Abyad Referral Hospital. Our teams conducted more than 5,200 outpatient consultations and vaccinated 7,000 children against measles. 

Northeast Syria

In northeast Syria, MSF provided staff, drugs and supplies – all of which are in short supply – to support pre and postoperative care in a hospital’s trauma ward, rehabilitated the maternity ward, and ran two clinics offering outpatient consultations and mother-and-child care.

Iraq border

Near the Iraq border, we ran clinics for mothers and children as well as running polio vaccinations.

MSF also continues to support more than 100 Syrian-run medical programmes with drugs, supplies, technical support, and, in some cases, ambulances, in government- and opposition-controlled areas in six governorates, including besieged areas outside Damascus.

A map of MSF's activities in Syria, 2014.

Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.

At the end of 2014, MSF had 729 staff working in Syria. MSF first began working in the country in 1999.

 

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