Intended for healthcare professionals


Systematic destruction of healthcare in Eastern Ghouta, Syria

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 28 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1368
  1. Diana Rayes, independent research consultant1,
  2. Miriam Orcutt, research associate, coordinator2,
  3. Aula Abbara, infectious diseases consultant3,
  4. Wasim Maziak, professor4
  1. 1Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
  2. 2Institute for Global Health, University College London, UK
  3. 3Imperial College London, UK
  4. 4Department of epidemiology, Florida International University, USA
  1. m.orcutt{at}

The international community needs to act urgently to protect civilians

Systematic attacks on hospitals, patients, doctors, and civilians in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, have killed nearly 1600 civilians and resulted in the internal displacement of over 50 000 people since the military offensive launched on 18 February 2018.12 This is just the latest episode in a campaign adopted by the Syrian government and its allies to use healthcare as a weapon of war, in total disregard of international humanitarian law.3 The apathy of world leaders and failure of the international system to halt attacks on civilians further deepens the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ghouta. Healthcare continues to deteriorate dramatically, and those who are internally displaced have little or no access to shelter, safe water, or waste management.2

The 400 000 inhabitants of the Damascus enclave have been under siege since a nerve agent, sarin, was used in a chemical attack in 2013.4 People living in Eastern Ghouta have since faced a severe shortage of food and medical supplies, wartime inflation, and scarce access to healthcare. Despite the UN Security Council Resolution 2401, passed on 24 February 2018, calling for a 30 day cessation of hostilities to allow aid deliveries, civilians …

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