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SYRIA

FOUR YEARS LATER
THE HUMANITARIAN IMPASSE

Besieged, bombed, attacked and displaced – the Syrian population has been devastated by four years of war. Basic services, from access to health care, water, electricity and foodstuffs, are no longer available in most of the country’s governorates. Médecins Sans Frontières has been conducting cross-border activities since 2012 in northern Syria. Providing medical aid to Syrians has proven to be a huge challenge for us since the conflict began. We are working in an environment in which the Damascus regime considers medical facilities and staff in rebel areas to be military targets. When the Islamic State gained territorial control, we were forced to withdraw from all those areas after five of our volunteers were kidnapped in January 2014. Since then, our Syrian staff have been working on their own to continue to provide medical services, particularly in the northern part of the country. Dounia Dekhili, MSF program manager for Syria and Jordan, Dr. Mego Terzian, president of Médecins Sans Frontières, and Dr. Natalie Roberts, MSF’s medical coordinator for Syria in 2014, review four years of humanitarian impasse.

SYRIA

FOUR YEARS LATER
THE HUMANITARIAN IMPASSE

2011-2012: Doctors
and hospitals targeted

It sometimes took 48 hours to get to our hospital. We think that means that the most severely-injured or ill people did not survive."

The revolt broke out in Syria in spring 2011. From the start, the Assad regime’s willingness to terrorize the population could be seen as it chased wounded demonstrators all the way to medical facilities and conducted reprisals against the doctors who tried to treat them. Physicians organized secret networks, but lacked drugs, supplies and equipment. Without official authorization to work in the country, MSF operated clandestinely, providing drug supplies before opening a hospital in northern Syria.

Dounia Dekhili
MSF program manager for Syria and Jordan

SYRIA

FOUR YEARS LATER
THE HUMANITARIAN IMPASSE

2013: Humanitarian blockade and attacks on civilians

We even negotiated with the Islamic State group, just like any other group, because we thought it made sense to talk with everybody."

The conflict persists. The health system has collapsed in opposition-controlled areas that are still deprived of humanitarian aid and victimized by armed government reprisals. The Islamic State continues to gain ground. MSF negotiated with all the actors in an effort to expand our activities and open a second hospital. But in January2014, the Islamic State kidnapped five of our volunteers. The international teams left the country.

Dr. Mego Terzian
President of Médecins Sans Frontières

SYRIA

FOUR YEARS LATER
THE HUMANITARIAN IMPASSE

2014: The population is suffocating

I can’t imagine what Syria will be like in four years. I hope things will work out, but for now we are at an impasse."

Today, MSF cannot consider working in areas controlled by the Islamic State, which refuses to provide our teams with minimal security conditions and the independence necessary to aid the Syrians. Instead, our teams are operating from neighboring countries in an effort to assist besieged populations displaced by the fighting and subject to bombing by the Syrian army.

Dr. Natalie Roberts
MSF medical coordinator for Syria in 2014