External Affairs

Syrian Doctors Plead for Help, Fear the World Is ‘Bored’ With Their Conflict

Doctors treat an injured civilian in a field hospital after what activists said was shelling by forces of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Eastern Ghouta, Syria in this November 19, 2015 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Bassam Khabieh

Paris: A group of Syrian doctors based in rebel-held provinces said on Tuesday that aid had dropped markedly over the last two months because donors were losing interest, a factor that will make it harder for them to handle government assaults.

Tens of thousands of displaced Syrians have found refuge in the northern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey. It is a stronghold of opposition forces, including ISIS-led rebel groups.

“The situation in Idlib is very bad because many organisations have stopped their support,” said Dr Farida, the last obstetrician-gynecologist to be evacuated from rebel-held eastern Aleppo to Idlib earlier this year. The doctors did not use their full names to protect their families from retaliation.

“Many hospitals are closing because their supporters from outside are bored now because it’s the seventh year of the revolution. Many of them don’t want to come in anymore,” she said. She estimated some three million people now lived in the area.

The three-doctor delegation from the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation (SAMS) was in Paris and will travel to the Netherlands and Luxembourg to get commitments for medical assistance in the region.

John Dautzenberg, an advocacy manager for SAMS, said it was clear the new US administration’s current rethinking on how to distribute aid was affecting other governments and making it more complicated for non-governmental organisations to get funding.

“The biggest threat … from their policy changes is scaring away the money as people think that the US is not going to meet its humanitarian financial-assistance commitments so everyone else thinks we don’t have to give as much either,” Dautzenberg said.

Russia and Iran, which back the Syrian government, and opposition supporter Turkey, agreed in May to arrange and monitor “de-escalation zones” in Syria to ease the fighting.

Government bombing of rebel areas in the north has eased, but the Syrian army and Iran-backed militia forces have escalated air raids against a rebel-held part of the southern city of Deraa, a possible prelude to a large-scale campaign to take full control of the city.

The doctors said they feared that the northern respite would only be temporary and that the region was under-equipped medically to deal with a wave of air strikes.

“They gathered all the people in this area. We don’t expect that they will leave us alone,” said Dr Abdulkhalek, a former director at an eastern Aleppo hospital.

(Reuters)