Attacks on healthcare in the Syrian conflict

Drawing lessons from Syria to improve global reporting systems
Research paper Published 23 November 2021 Updated 24 November 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 473 0
A man checks damage at a medical clinic following government air strikes on Binnish, in Syria’s Idlib governorate, December 2016.

Dr Abdulkarim Ekzayez

Fprmer Academy Associate, Global Health Programme

Despite the existence of international conventions and laws governing the use of force in war, attacks against healthcare workers and facilities remain a feature of contemporary armed conflict. Analysis by WHO indicates that the number of attacks on healthcare worldwide in 2020 was higher than that in each of the previous two years.

Syria has witnessed a substantial number of attacks on healthcare in conflict (AHCC) during 10 years of war, with 600 attacks on facilities and 930 health personnel having been killed up to June 2021. The Syrian experience has led to the development by local and global NGOs of stronger systems for reporting attacks.

This paper outlines examples of good practice in documenting AHCC from the Syrian conflict and shows how mechanisms used in Syria can help improve the international approach to reporting AHCC in future.