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Syria: Deliberate deprivation of right to life, health

10 October 2016

“We are inside a holocaust; we do not see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

These are the words used by Dr. Abd Arrahamn Alomar to describe the current predicament of the Syrian people.

Alomar is a paediatrician in Syria serving in particularly vulnerable cities including Aleppo. He was speaking during a side on prevention of child morality and human rights held on 26 September during the 33rd session of the human rights council in Geneva.

“The situation in Syria is desperate. It is a deliberate deprivation of the right to life and the right to health,” he explains.

Despite the violence, Alomar and a handful of other health workers like him have continued to serve in Syria right in the line of fire.

“Health workers are the most systemically targeted people in areas outside the control of the regime. They are targeted more often than the military,” says Alomar.

The violent conditions health workers are more than just an occupational hazard as they find themselves as targets for airstrikes and bombing. “More than 750 health workers have been reported to be killed, but the actual numbers are more than that. This is not a coincidence. There have been deliberate attacks on medical facilities,” said Alomar.

Due to the siege of various cities in Syria, there is an acute shortage of medical as well as human resources for health support. In Aleppo, there are 30 doctors serving 300,000 people under heavy bombardment. There are only two paediatricians tending to the needs of 85,000 children in the city.

“Health is a matter of luxury in Syria,” is how Alomar describes the present healthcare system in the country. “People are not dying of diseases but because they are prohibited access to healthcare.”

Since 2011, it is not uncommon to find among Syrian children cases of severe malnutrition and war injuries.  Absent resources as well as lack of proper immunization for children make many of these cases untreatable increasing the child mortality rate in Syria. Children are dying of situations which are completely preventable, reminded Alomar.

The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, emphasized that many of the cases of child mortality are due to acts of omission and commission. “Preventable child mortality has no place at all in the world as we know it today,” she said.

Alomar has also suffered tremendous personal loss. His 17 year old son was a young journalist documenting the polio eradication campaign in northern Syria when he was killed in the on-going violence.

Despite all this, it is a sense of duty which keeps Alomar helping the injured victims in Syria despite the terrible occupational hazards he faces every day. He sees the Syrian population as his own people, his own family, and is dedicated to help as many people as he can.

“Stop targeting humanitarian facilities, especially hospitals and medical centres. Stop targeting health staff, they are doing their duty.” Alomar wants this message to be heard widely.

10 October 2016