Physicians for Human Rights warns of severe obstacles to health care in North and East Syria

NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — New York-based non-profit organization Physicians for Human Rights released a report in December 2021 on the status of the health sector in northern Syria. The report details health care in North and East Syria as well as territories occupied by Turkey and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The research was conducted by the organization in late 2021.

The report stated that issues in the health sector go beyond the direct effects of the ongoing fighting. The regions of North and East Syria are experiencing major problems acquiring medical supplies, as the United Nations has closed the Al-Arabiya/Tel Kogar crossing between Iraq and North and East Syria in 2020 under Russian pressure, according to the report.

While aid reaches Turkish-occupied territory — and its Syrian National Army (SNA) proxies — via the Bab al-Hawa crossing, the process of delivering aid to North and East Syria through Turkish-occupied territories “poses several challenges,” according to a Syrian doctor who co-authored the report.

“There are security concerns related to transferring supplies across different areas of control, with various armed groups controlling checkpoints, which puts this essential medical aid at higher risk of being hijacked,” Dr. Houssam al-Nahhas told Al-Monitor.

Nahhas said delivering aid to rural areas in the northeast is a “logistical challenge”, and delays in the delivery of aid are of particular concern given that some medicines must be stored at low temperatures in refrigerators, including the coronavirus vaccine and insulin.

Humanitarian groups also work mainly in camps for displaced persons, where the population has relatively few resources, according to the doctor.

On 11 January, the U.N. Security Council extended the mandate of the Bab al-Hawa crossing for another six months, while the Al-Yarabiya crossing is likely to remain closed for the foreseeable future.