Medics Across Northwest Syria Rush to Protect Hospitals as Relentless Bombing Devastates Last Children’s Facility in East Aleppo

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Nov. 22, 2016) — Hospitals across north-west Syria are looking at plans to further protect their facilities amid a constant wave of attacks. The defensive measures were prompted by sustained aerial bombardment on medical facilities in East Aleppo, which have left hospitals struggling to provide emergency care to gravely injured children. According to The Aleppo Health Directorate, these repeated attacks mean hospital workers are facing the prospect of having no safe space to carry out treatment at all, despite the high rate of casualties. The plans are being discussed for hospitals across Aleppo and Idlib governorates.

Aleppo has faced renewed and relentless bombardment since last Tuesday, killing hundreds of people and injuring countless others. East Aleppo saw a sustained attack over the weekend, with the area’s only pediatric hospital devastated by airstrikes. According to the World Health Organization, the area now has no functioning hospital facilities. Beyond East Aleppo, five hospitals and a mobile health clinic were bombed in rural Aleppo and Idlib in the last 10 days alone.

"It was barely possible to imagine that the situation in Aleppo could become any worse, and yet the scenes we have seen over the weekend have been truly horrifying," said Sonia Khush, Syria Director for Save the Children. "Packed emergency rooms are children who appear to have inhaled chlorine gas struggling to breathe, confused and separated from their families, and premature babies being rescued from damaged incubators and taken into smoke filled rooms as hospitals come under attack. Ambulances and mobile health units will do what they can to treat people when they are not being targeted themselves, but these only have room for a few patients and not nearly enough equipment to treat the range of injuries they are seeing."

Among those killed over the weekend was an education worker at a Save the Children supported school in East Aleppo. Maram, 27, was found under the rubble with her 6-month-old son, Abdullah.

Maram’s death follows the serious injury of another teacher working in a Save the Children supported school. Last week the male teacher was hit in an aerial bombardment and had to have his leg amputated.

"The bodies of Maram and her infant son were found after school teams and volunteers spent an entire day looking for signs of life under the rubble. She was a much loved member of the education team and her devastating loss is grieved by all that knew her," said Khush.

Classes at 13 Save the Children supported schools in East Aleppo have been suspended as shelling intensified in recent days. Meanwhile, in government-controlled West Aleppo, at least seven children were killed in an attack on a school on Sunday, showing that there is no safe place for children in this conflict.

"Children and aid workers are being bombarded by missiles while they are sitting at their school desks and seeking treatment in hospitals which are also under attack. The very places they should feel safest have become deadly," added Khush. "They are being pulled from the rubble but there is literally nowhere to take them for treatment for the kind of injuries they have sustained. It is a moral outrage that the death toll of Aleppo’s children continues to grow and seems only set to get worse, while so little action is being taken to end the bombing and hold warring parties accountable for these attacks on civilians. Parties to the conflict must come together to agree an immediate ceasefire, and to evacuate civilian casualties and get life-saving aid into the area."

The UN and opposition groups have negotiated access for an aid convoy which can proceed once all parties agree to a ceasefire. Save the Children is calling for an internationally monitored 72-hour ceasefire to bring humanitarian relief into East Aleppo and evacuate the sick and injured.

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