Fewer than 30 doctors left in war-torn Aleppo, UN health agency warns

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Syrian doctors in a field hospital. File photo

GENEVA (UN) – A senior official at the United Nations’ health agency reported on Friday that there are now fewer than 30 doctors working in the Syrian city of Aleppo. This is down from 35 several days ago and is indicative of the deteriorating healthcare in the war-torn city.

Doctor Rick Brennan, the Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response at the World Health Organization (WHO), told reporters in Geneva: “Up until the last few days, there had been eight hospitals partially functioning in Aleppo, but a few days ago, the two largest hospitals [were] deliberately targeted.” Dr Brennan added that the hospitals, “are now not functioning, drastically reducing the capacity of health workers in the city to provide life-saving medical care for many innocent civilians.” 

“There has been a reduction in the number of health workers able to stay at their posts, and those who did are exhausted, drained physically and emotionally,” he continued. “The work they are doing is beyond heroic. For them to stay at their post under those conditions deserves unending admiration and respect.”

The 270,000 people in eastern Aleppo have been under siege since September 4 when rebel supply lines were cut. It is now difficult to get medical supplies, equipment and fuel to the remaining health facilities. Patients in life-threatening condition cannot be evacuated, as no one can pass through the siege lines.

Dr Brennan said that he has been working in humanitarian assistance for 23 years, has been to conflict zones on four continents, but has rarely seen conditions as severe as those in eastern Aleppo.

Out of over 100 public hospitals in Syria, roughly 45 percent are currently fully operational. Another 30 percent are partially functional, and 25 percent are out of commission

In eastern Aleppo, the situation is significantly worse than in the rest of the country. A few days ago, when the two main hospitals were still functioning, there were 135 hospital beds available. With the recent destruction of the two hospitals, the capacity to treat patients has been drastically reduced.

“Children and other civilians are being treated on the floor in corridors,” Dr Brennan reported. “There are not enough intensive care beds. Four children have died in the last few days, according to medical representatives on the ground, because the intensive care unit in one of the hospitals was full.” 

The WHO is calling for the sick and injured to be let through the siege lines. There are more than 800 injured people in Aleppo, including children in life-threatening condition. These patients need immediate access to essential health care.

“Access is needed to east Aleppo to bring in drugs, essential medical equipment and other medical personnel,” Dr Brennan said. “[We need] to relieve the brave doctors, nurses and other health care providers who have stayed at their posts throughout this recent escalation.”

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