Doctors and healthcare professionals in Syria have faced attacks for most of the five-year civil war. If conditions of a previous ceasefire are any indication, the strikes are likely to continue despite the precarious new truce in the north.
Providing healthcare in Syria means living under the constant threat of air bombardments, a lack of basic equipment, or an inability to provide patients with chronic disease the medicines they need.
Media attention flared after an air strike on a medical facility operated by Reporter’s Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross killed 30 people last month.
But for doctors and other health workers in the country, such attacks on their care centres are nothing new.
Syria’s Yamadiya hospital in north Latakia – near the Syria-Turkey border – was being bombed while the United Nations still claimed the existence of a ceasefire. The first hit came on March 23 at about 11am when nearly 40 bombs rained down on the hospital, Dr Saira Murady told Al Jazeera.
Murady attributed the attacks to Syrian government forces. It was not possible to independently verify the claim.
Yamadiya hospital was originally a small tent facility established to help internally displaced people. The hospital staff moved into a school and expanded services to accommodate the increase in war refugees.
But the bombing continued even after the staff relocated hospital operations.
Dr Abu Ali sustained a broken arm and chest wounds in one such attack. The hospital and its remaining doctors, including Murady, now work out of a nearby cave in the hope of protecting patients and themselves.
The attacks are not Murady’s only concern. The violence has meant a dwindling number of physicians with advanced training in specific medical procedures, and hospitals have been forced to rely only on the doctors who remained inside Syria.
“We get used to working under bombs, but the hard part was bringing specialists in this area,” said Murady, who began working at the hospital in 2013 as an emergency room physician.
Dr Bachir Tajaldin visits Yamadiya hospital every two weeks after leaving the area in 2012 out of concern for his family’s safety. He linked the high number of amputations at Yamadiya hospital to the lack of specialists in vascular surgery.
“There’s no replacement for this health staff. The normal situation when you lose a doctor or a nurse, there is a new generation of the health staff that have graduated from the universities and institutes. But now the hospitals are destroyed and universities are in government-controlled areas,” said Tajaldin.
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