|GENEVA, Mar. 12, 2018 -- There has been a marked increase in violent attacks on health care in Syria with 67 reported in the first two months of 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.
In February, a total of 43 incidents of violence against health care facilities, services and workers were reported, of which 39 were verified by external monitors and 4 are still being verified, said WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier at a regular UN media briefing here.
Citing figures released by the health cluster based in Gaziantep, Turkey, Lindmeier said those figures compared to 31 incidents in January, of which 28 were verified.
He said WHO calls on all parties in Syria to immediately halt attacks on medical and humanitarian personnel, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.
"Every attack on health represents a loss that shatters families and communities and ripples through health systems," said Lindmeier.
"Health workers and health facilities are not a target. It has to stop," he said, noting that medical facilities and medical personnel have special protection under International Humanitarian Law.
In all, the 67 verified attacks on health facilities and workers in the first two months of this year amount to more than 50 percent of verified attacks in all of 2017, which totaled 112.
Of February's verified incidents, 28 were in eastern Ghouta near Damascus, 10 in Idleb and 1 in Homs, said the WHO.
The attacks targeted 20 hospitals, 16 health facilities, two ambulance stations and one medical supplies warehouse.
These attacks resulted in the deaths of 19 people, among them four health workers. The attacks also left 28 people injured, 7 of them medical staff and their impact was "devastating."
"In February, we can estimate that these attacks disrupted 15,000 medical consultations of people in desperate need of care and nearly 1,500 surgeries, many of which could have been life-saving," said Lindmeier.
He said the calculation is based on the average services provided each month at the affected facilities.