Medical services have become new targets of war in Syria, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal on March 14.
Samer Jabbour, an associate professor at the American University of Beirut's Faculty of Health Sciences who co-led the study published to mark the sixth anniversary of the Syrian crisis, said, the year 2016 was the most dangerous year for health workers in Syria, with multiple attacks including killings, imprisonment, abduction and torture.
The study estimated that 814 medical personnel were killed between March 2011 and February 2017 and this was probably a gross underestimate due to difficulties in gathering and corroborating evidence.
Researchers said there were almost 200 attacks on health centres last year alone and a key feature of the weaponisation of healthcare is the repeated targeting of medical facilities with the aim of shutting them down.
What is more worrying is that over time, targeting has become more frequent and more geographically widespread. However, Syria is just the tip of the iceberg as Afghanistan, Colombia, Yemen and Libya also report attacks on health facilities every week.
The international community must do more to protect healthcare in Syria by instituting stronger national and international legislation to protect healthcare workers in conflicts and UN should take a lead in this.