Syria: Healthcare system on brink

Over thirteen years of non-stop conflict and Western sanctions have critically damaged Syria’s healthcare system, according to The National News’ report on March 14th.

Once considered a self-sufficient sector, the system now suffers from widespread destruction of hospitals and pharmaceutical factories, severe shortages of medical staff, and a dire lack of life-saving medicines. Currently, only half of the country’s hospitals are fully functional, with the remaining facilities either partially operating or completely shut down.

The war and sanctions, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, have driven the healthcare services to breaking point. Functional hospitals, mainly located in major cities, struggle to cope with the overwhelming demand for medical care. The damage to medical infrastructure and equipment is so severe that many facilities are unable to provide basic care levels. Hospitals under government control are doing little better, with patients receiving a reduced quality of care due to overwhelming demand and damaged medical equipment.

READ: UN Syria commission say violence at four-year high

It is estimated that over 12 million Syrians urgently need health care, a situation further worsened by the reduction of the healthcare workforce due to displacement, death, and injury. Despite efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups to meet the population’s basic health needs, such groups articulate greater support is needed to recover from the conflict.

International sanctions, aimed at the Syrian government, have resulted in significant repercussions for the healthcare sector, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to import medical devices and equipment. The sanctions – particularly those implemented by the West – have restricted banking, transportation, and international shipping. Consequently, there is a blockade on life-saving medication for diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Additionally, the 2023 earthquake in northwest Syria further strained the already overloaded healthcare system. Earthquake victims were prevented essential treatment, with many dying due to a scarcity of basic medical supplies and service amidst the destruction of numerous health facilities.

READ: Syria: Earthquake survivors receive dwindling international aid

Despite producing a significant amount of its medicines in-country, a lack of raw resources has challenged production. Production is further reduced through the lack of operational pharmaceutical factories, with 40 percent estimated to be non-operational.

The Syrian government and opposition have blamed each other for worsening the healthcare crisis. Unlike systems with an independent body such as the Federal Drug Association (FDA), Syria’s healthcare regulation is directly managed by the Health Ministry, reducing its effectiveness.

To address these issues, the ministry introduced a national strategy with WHO’s support, aiming to implement a universal health coverage and improved healthcare system. This strategy could benefit the Syrian population through widening access to healthcare, reducing costs, and improving chances of survival for those most vulnerable. Nonetheless, the Syrian healthcare system, crippled after years of conflict, sanctions, and natural disasters, faces a critical situation.

The National

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