The destruction at Al-Kendi hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo seen on December 21, 2013
The destruction at Al-Kendi hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo seen on December 21, 2013 © Mohammed al-Khatieb - AFP/File
The destruction at Al-Kendi hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo seen on December 21, 2013
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AFP
Last updated: January 6, 2015

Old diseases return as Syrian doctors warn of medical disaster

Banner Icon Syria is facing a "medical and humanitarian disaster" after nearly four years of war have gutted the country's healthcare system, leading to a return of eradicated diseases, a group of Syrian doctors said in Paris Monday.

Syria is facing a "medical and humanitarian disaster" after nearly four years of war have gutted the country's healthcare system, leading to a return of eradicated diseases, a group of Syrian doctors said in Paris Monday.

A lack of doctors, supplies and drugs have plunged the country back into the medical dark ages, with polio and scabies back with a vengeance as many children are no longer vaccinated, while the majority of births take place at home.

"The situation is unbearable, catastrophic and many in Syria no longer have access to medical care," said Oubaida Al Moufti, a French-Syrian doctor and member of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM).

He was speaking to journalists late Monday at the foreign ministry in Paris which lends support to the organisation.

A doctor from Aleppo, a former economic hub ravaged by fighting, said the city has only five hospitals -- three only partially functioning -- in the eastern rebel-controlled section where 360,000 people live surrounded by government forces.

"There are no more than 30 doctors, from a variety of specialities. Aside from war injuries we are seeing the resurgence of diseases like polio, tuberculosis, scabies or typhoid," said the doctor, who gave his name only as Abdelaziz.

Another doctor described the "intolerable" situation in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus which has been under siege by loyalist forces for two years where "it is not possible to get humanitarian aid in."

And in the IS stronghold Raqqa, home to 1.6 million people, one doctor said there were "no obstetrics, gynaecological or pediatric services."

Moufti said that 80 percent of births in Syria were taking place at home.

The UOSSM doctors try and work in all zones, whether held by government forces, rebels or IS jihadists.

"We are neutral, but we experience violence from all sides, and no one has any guarantees from anyone," said the association, which has a list of 250 doctors killed in Syria since war broke out in March 2011.

Tawfik Chamaa, a UOSSM representative in Switzerland, condemned what he called an international "silence" on the daily suffering of Syrians.

"All the media talks about now is extremism and Daesh (an alternative name for IS). But not the women and children who are killed, the bodies torn to shreds, open stomachs, that which we deal with daily as doctors," he said.

More than 200,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-regime protests that spiralled into a war after a government crackdown.

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