MSF reports on the increasing need for humanitarian aid in Syria

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04 March 2021

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) recounts ten years of support provided in Syria

MSF has been responding to the crisis in Syria, which will have been ongoing for exactly ten years come March 15th. Over the past decade, over 12 million Syrians have been displaced, with some 5.6 million refugees currently scattered across the globe, the majority in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. MSF has still not been granted approval to work in government-controlled areas of Syria, despite repeated requests for permission since 2011; its efforts are primarily concentrated on areas outside of government control.

In 2011, as localized protests turned into a full-scale war, MSF began its operations in Syria by supporting networks of Syrian doctors and providing donations of medical and relief items to field hospitals and clinics. The conflict continued to worsen, and by 2013 MSF teams were recording the resurgence of preventable diseases under a dysfunctional and rapidly deteriorating health system. In 2014 and 2015, MSF staff and facilities became the targets of deliberate attacks , including the abduction of five MSF staff abducted in 2014, and the bombing or shelling of 63 MSF-supported hospitals and clinics on 94 separate occasions in 2015. Fortunately, MSF still managed to maintain its presence in Syria, opening new projects and increasing its remote support to medical facilities within the country. 

From 2016 to 2018, as the Syrian government retook more territory, MSF was forced to concentrate on areas in the north outside of government control. By 2019, on top of continuous conflict and displacement, Syria was going through its worst economic crisis in years, increasing the need for humanitarian efforts even further. In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis overwhelmed an already devastated health system and economy; in just over one year, an additional 4.5 million Syrians have been pushed into food insecurity.

A decade later, the conflict in Syria is not over and people continue to suffer. Despite numerous attacks targeted specifically at MSF, the organization continues its important work of responding to the increasing humanitarian and medical needs of millions both in Syria and around the world.

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Author: Tan Zhong Chen; Editor: Xavier Atkins

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