Syria's health system crumbles while UN humanitarian appeal runs dry

From Global development | The Guardian Thu Dec 27 2012, 06:40:35

Healthcare crisis could mean life or death for many desperate Syrians left without drugs or doctors, hospitals or health centres

Eid Hanani has not been affected by the bombs, the snipers or the shelling that have engulfed many parts of Syria. He only barely escaped death, but faced a threat of a different kind. In July, he was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder. But the only cancer hospital in the capital, Damascus, was out of the serum injections used for treatment.

The nearly two-year conflict in Syria has claimed tens of thousands of lives, destroyed entire neighbourhoods and sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. More quietly, however, it has eaten away at the country's healthcare system. Pharmaceutical factories, which used to produce more than 90% of the country's drug needs, are down to one-third of their former production, according to Elizabeth Hoff, the representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Syria.

Many have been destroyed or damaged in the fighting - sometimes directly targeted by the opposition. The northern city of Aleppo, one of the worst affected, was home to most of the factories. Other factories are struggling to import raw materials due to sanctions imposed on Syria by western countries. Insecure routes have affected supply lines.

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