Al-Jazeera published an insightful and important Op-ed piece by Dr. Qanta Ahmed earlier this morning, detailing the horrifying effects of civil war on the healthcare systems of Syria and Iraq. President Bashar al-Assad, according to the article, has intentionally mobilized his forces against hospitals and other medical centers, and has spurred the passage of legislation that bars doctors and nurses from treating terrorists or supporters of terrorism. In fact, nearly 500 healthcare workers have been arrested under the new laws, while more than 40% of ambulances have been destroyed in attacks associated with the civil war – 95% of which have been perpetrated by government forces.
57% of Syrian hospitals have been destroyed or severely damaged by the conflict, leaving thousands of injured civilians without available medical assistance. Similar issues have plagued Iraq, due to both the American invasion of 2003 and the recent ISIS-related violence. Since 2003, about 80% of Iraqi healthcare workers have fled the country, fearing violence and hoping for more expansive financial opportunities. As a result, people with medical problems – regardless of their connection to the uprisings – have been forced to decide whether to stay in their country and risk death or leave in the hopes of getting treatment. It is clear that these situations, having already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Middle Easterners, need to be resolved.