For Immediate Release

December 9, 2016

Washington, D.C. – Today, SAMS, along with members of medical, human rights, and relief organizations, published an open letter to the Russian medical community, appealing to their medical colleagues to urge the Russian government to act urgently to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and across Syria. The letter is signed by dozens of doctors from leading medical institutions with experience in emergency care, global health, and medical ethics, together with humanitarian aid organizations, whose medical staff on the ground risk their lives to deliver care and services while under constant bombardment.

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, SAMS’s Senior Advisor, stated, “The situation in Aleppo is a catastrophe. My colleagues have sent me pictures of people fleeing the city. I saw pictures of children who are trying to escape Aleppo. One of these pictures was particularly heartbreaking, of a girl with an amputated leg, who was trying to leave the city on crutches. After countless broken promises, it is the international community that no longer has legs to stand on.”

The letter states:

The lack of accountability for the systematic targeting of the healthcare infrastructure in Syria since the beginning of the conflict has created a dangerous new normal, yet heroic medical personnel continue to risk their safety to save the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Two weeks ago, all remaining hospitals in besieged eastern Aleppo City were forced to either close or operate at very low capacity in basements after days of intensive aerial bombardment campaign. The targeting of these hospitals, which treat civilians, has left nearly 300,000 people trapped, among them 100,000 children and 151,000 women, and without access to healthcare or medical evacuation, a human right.

“We are asking that Russian doctors join our global call to end the ongoing atrocities in Syria, including the persistent targeting of medical facilities and personnel by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. This is an appeal to the consciences of health professionals in Russia who are bold enough to stand up and declare: not in our names. The suffering of the people of Aleppo – half of them children – has gone on long enough. Health professionals are charged to do no harm, and yet we cannot be silent in the face of such atrocities. To our Russian colleagues: put whatever pressure you can on your government to end this horror,” said Donna McKay, Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights.

“It is our responsibility to call for the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers. Their heroic work and selflessness in the face of daily horror is exemplary. A few days ago, while working in a medical point, one of our colleagues found himself resuscitating his own children, who had been injured in airstrikes. Medical workers are the most targeted group in Syria. Supporting them and calling for the protection of the principles of medical neutrality is a non-debatable universal message. As physicians and humanitarian workers, we must take this ethical stand. I am hopeful that our colleagues worldwide will support this initiative,” said Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, President of SAMS.

In this open letter, SAMS and the signatories call for the immediate and unhindered allowance of humanitarian aid into besieged eastern Aleppo City and medical evacuations of the sick and injured. It is critical that access is provided to all besieged cities in Syria and that both indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians, hospitals, and schools across Syria end.

Read the full letter in English and Russian.

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