The humanitarian situation in eastern Aleppo has reached a breaking point as the siege enters its sixth week and an unprecedented bombing campaign pounds the city following an operation launched by Syrian forces and their allies backed by Russian airpower to retake the eastern part of the city on September 22.
300,000 people are trapped without aid, food, fuel and medical supplies while facing constant attacks from the air. On one day alone, at least 80 civilians were killed in more than 50 air attacks on densely packed civilian neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo. The siege has devastated the city’s already crippled health system, with fewer than 30 doctors left to tend to the injured as hospitals continue to be targeted. The city is entirely encircled, leaving patients in urgent need of specialized care trapped to succumb to their injuries. In early September, a four-day old patient name Kheder in IDA’s Children’s Hospital died from a birth defect that could have been treated with a life-saving operation outside Aleppo. But with all access barred, his days were numbered and he suffocated to death.
On September 30th, on the one-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, a double bunker bomb and phosphorus attack struck IDA’s Children’s Hospital and Central Blood Bank in Aleppo. ‘’Twenty meters closer and the hospital would have been completely destroyed, as this new weapon is able to destroy the strongest buildings in Aleppo’’, said a logistics staff present during the attack. Capable of striking deep into the earth, bunker bombs are effectively voiding years of precaution taken by the doctors to create safe spaces underground. Since Russia’s intervention, every hospital in the city has been hit at least once and over 9,000 civilians have been killed.
As doctors native to Aleppo and one of the main implementers of primary and secondary healthcare in the province since 2012, we ask for the world to realise that the momentum to uphold the capability and willingness of certain members of the international community to take action, is now. In the first place, we call for immediate action to halt the attacks on the besieged population of Aleppo, health workers and health facilities. Today only seven partially functional hospitals remain in service where medical personnel work under extremely exacting conditions, but they do not have the choice nor the will to abandon their patients.
“Our commitment to provide medical services to the people of Aleppo will not stop”, says IDA Director Dr. Mahmoud. ”The international community is abandoning civilian protection while humanitarian bodies like us try to preserve what is left of humanitarian values. All Member States are part of the solution in Syria, but the paralysis of the United Nations in Syria has laid bare all their claims to defend the sanctity of human rights.’’
In addition, we call for access to be opened not only for the purpose of medical evacuations but for all civilians, as the siege has unacceptably serious implications for the health status of the entire population. Food items and supplies must be allowed in to avoid the city falling into starvation and malnutrition. If supplies are not able to enter overland, we call for them to dropped by air.
Finally, if the Russian veto power is stalling the international community from the action required to stop the extermination of Aleppo, then the UN needs to be reformed to curb Security Council veto powers and bring Syria under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
”The impunity of the Syrian regime and Russia will in the future enable all criminal powers to kill their people if we don’t do anything now to stop their crimes”, warns Dr. Hatem, the director of Aleppo’s Children’s Hospital. ‘’The fate of Aleppo’s children is one of the darkest spots for the world as they are relentlessly bombed, starved and murdered before our eyes.”