According to the U.N., the conflict in Syria has caused the worst humanitarian crises since World War II, with more than 150,000 people killed and 12.2 million (more than half of the Syrian population) in need of humanitarian aid.
In June 2014 United Nations officials said that the UN could deliver aid to as many as two million people in separatist-controlled Syria. But by the end of the year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admitted that the actual numbers of aid recipients were far lower. In separatist-controlled areas, only 208,000 received food aid, only 250,000 received medical aid, and water and sanitation equipment was delivered to as few as 86,000. Ban Ki-moon called the denial of aid “a deliberate tactic of war aimed at denying help and support to those most in need.”
That’s something that the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) has been a victim of. The organization was founded by Syrian-American physicians to support and train medical personnel within the country. In a report, it noted that “Every single medical facility that SAMS supports inside of Syria has been targeted by an air strike or barrel bomb at some point in time and every month we lose additional medical personnel in targeted attacks.”
These attacks on medical facilities and medical personnel are not random. According to the group’s report on implementing aid in Syria, the attacks are very often deliberate – and doubly devastating. “The intentional targeting of medical facilities and personnel in Syria has led to a severe lack of medical personnel in the places where they are needed the most, and discourages civilians from seeking treatment when they are sick or injured, further endangering civilian lives and decreasing the impact of humanitarian aid efforts,” according to SAMS’ report.
“Barrel bombs and airstrikes are a daily occurrence, and make the road incredibly dangerous, and sometimes temporarily shut down. Vehicles are targeted, and aid trucks and ambulances are hesitant to travel on that road,” SAMS’ communication manager Kathleen Fallon said in an email to ThinkProgress.
While ISIS poses real threats to civilians, Fallon says the militant group’s territory is not the hardest to supply with aid. “All around the ‘hardest to reach’ areas are truly the contested areas,” she said. “Operations in areas where one party is in control, including ISIS controlled areas, have gone much more smoothly than in the contested areas where fighting is active and airstrikes are at their height.”