Both sides have intentionally targeted hospitals over two years of Syrian civil war, claims aid agency

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Both sides in Syria’s civil war have intentionally targeted medical facilities over the past two years, causing the country’s health care system to “collapse”, a leading aid agency has claimed.

Médecins Sans Frontières, a medical aid organisation that has been operating clandestinely in Syria since the beginning of the conflict, said some facilities had been bombed by government jets, and patients have been arrested by soldiers.

“Medical aid is being targeted, hospitals destroyed and medical personnel captured,” said Dr Marie-Pierre Allié, President of MSF.

Most qualified health staff have fled the country to escape violence, a report by the organisation says today. As a result, dangerous operations are being performed by dentists, pharmacists are treating patients and young people are being sent to work as nurses.

Some rebel groups fighting in Syria have been responsible for looting medical facilities, the report added.

Christopher Stokes, MSF’s general director, said the humanitarian situation in the country is being made worse by the Syrian government’s refusal to allow aid to be delivered to rebel-held areas.

“The Damascus authorities hold the key to breaking this deadlock and remove all obstacles to independent aid across the country,” he told The Independent.

“We call on the parties involved in the conflict, for want of a political resolution, to reach at least a basic agreement on humanitarian aid to facilitate its provision through the most effective means possible.”

The report says that while the needs of the population across Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries are considerable, the aid being provided is largely insufficient.

According to Syrian government figures, 57 per cent of the country’s hospitals have been damaged and 36 per cent are unable to function.

The United Nations estimates more than 70,000 Syrians – mostly civilians – have been killed in the past two years.

The conflict has sent more than a million refugees over the border into neighbouring countries.