September 19, 2018
The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: One Year On
Although the area was previously agreed as a “de-escalation zone” by Russian, Turkish and Iranian forces, on February 4th the Syrian government, supported by Russian troops, began to bombard the enclave. On February 19th the Syrian government began a relentless attack on the area using mortar shells, barrel bombs and cluster bombs. Within days, hundreds of people had been killed and thousands injured.
There were also reports of chlorine gas being used on civilians including children. Ghouta has been a target throughout the Syrian civil war, and suffered from a sarin chemical attack in 2013 that killed 1,466 people, including 426 children.
Despite a ceasefire declared by Russia on February 25th, the Syrian government’s campaign of bombing and shelling has continued. The attack has also significantly damaged the local health infrastructure – 25 hospitals and health centers have been targeted and partially or wholly destroyed.
Although the Syrian government claims it is attacking “terrorists”, the vast majority of bombing has targeted well known civilian areas. Doctors of the World’s Board President, Dr. Ron Waldman, co authored an article in the Lancet that described 3 ways in which the horrendous siege could be stopped.
Firstly, all governments and humanitarian agencies involved in the Syrian civil war must act swiftly to end the siege. Secondly, health professionals around the world must mobilize and denounce the attacks against the residents of Eastern Ghouta. And finally, the UN Secretariat must become more impactful by working to protect civilians, conduct medical evacuations and ensure the flow of aid to the affected areas.
As the Syrian civil war continues, thousands of civilians are killed, injured and displaced from their homes every day. Doctors of the World calls on all involved parties to immediately cease attacks on civilians, the use of military weapons in civilian areas, and the ongoing siege in Eastern Ghouta.
Photography © Abdulmonam Eassa / AFP – Getty Images