The Current

Syrian hospital attacks prompt calls to declare medical clinics safe spaces

In the last week alone, an estimated six hospitals in Syria have been bombed. And the attacks on medical facilities go beyond Syria. What happened to medical neutrality that recognized medical workers could and should treat all sides in a conflict?
A damaged Doctors Without Borders-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes, in a rebel-held area of the Syrian city of Aleppo, April 28, 2016. (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)

Read story transcript

In the last week alone, an estimated six hospitals in Syria have been bombed, among them a hospital in Aleppo, supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

More than 20 patients were killed, including one of Aleppo's few remaining pediatricians, Dr. Muhammad Waseem Maaz.

Dr. Muhammad Waseem Maaz was killed in a hospital airstrike, April 27, 2016. He was reportedly one of the last pediatricians in Aleppo. (Syria Campaign)

More airstrikes also destroyed a Canadian-funded health clinic in Aleppo. No one was killed. Around 80 per cent of the patients at this clinic are women and children who continue to live in the shambles of Aleppo. According to UOSSM-Canada, as many as 1,400 people no longer have access to medical care as a result of the attack.

Both attacks are signs — not just that the weeks-old Syrian truce appears to be broken — but that health facilities and the few remaining health-care workers appear to be in the crosshairs.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has launched a #NotATarget campaign to stop attacks on medical facilities in conflict zones — not just in Syria, but also in Yemen, South Sudan and Afghanistan.

May 3 is an important day for this message as the United Nations Security Council will vote on a resolution condemning attacks and demanding they stop.

Attacks on medical personnel and patients are already considered war crimes under international law, but humanitarian workers say world powers have turned a blind eye as the attacks have grown worse.   

Syrians evacuate a toddler from a destroyed building following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, April 28, 2016. (Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images)

The Current looks at the implications as the only safe places in a war zone become seemingly high-value targets.

Guest in this segment:

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Idella Sturino and Marc Apollonio.