Press Release

Bombing impacts World Vision-supported hospital for women and children in northern Syria


A’ZAZ, Syria - A hospital specialising in maternal, newborn and children’s health in A’zaz, northern Syria was impacted by a bombing on 15 February that shattered windows and damaged building structure. Although no patients were hurt at the hospital that is managed by a local Syrian NGO with World Vision’s support, approximately 14 people in the vicinity were killed and 30 injured in the attack, which highlights the blatant disregard for international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.

''We heard the sound of a fighter so we ran into the hospital’s shelter. After the attack we couldn’t go up because we could still hear the sound of planes, when we went out we were told it was a missile. The sound of the plane was really loud and scary and the destruction was huge,'' shared a World Vision midwife working in the hospital at the time of the attack.

Four newborn babies lay in incubators when the explosion rocked the building, as did four women, unable to move from their beds while under anesthesia for Cesarian section, staff reported.

''Although a so-called cessation of hostilities was announced this week, to begin on Friday, recently there has been an alarming increase in attacks on hospitals, schools and other civilian areas in northern Syria,'' said Fran Charles, Advocacy Director for World Vision’s Syria Response. ''World Vision staff on-the-ground inside Syria report an increasingly restricted humanitarian space which means greater difficulty in reaching children and families with the assistance they so desperately need. The international community must step up and use all diplomatic influence at its disposal to ensure these attacks stop and children and families can access lifesaving assistance. International borders must also remain open for those fleeing conflict.''

Approximately 3,500 women and children per month accessed health services at the hospital which World Vision supported by training staff, and providing medicine, equipment and supplies. With the current operations suspended for security reasons, hospital staff hope to move operations closer to areas where newly-displaced women and children are in need of assistance. World Vision’s Women and Young Child Space operations were also suspended due to recent attacks in the area.

World Vision staff and partners are seeing a startling increase in the number of people recently displaced in northern Syria near the Turkey border. Just within the past 15 days, more than 62,000 people have been displaced in the Aleppo region.

Aid systems in border camps and towns, that are already hosting tens of thousands of people, are overwhelmed and the current capacity of the camps have been exhausted. World Vision’s supply warehouse has even become a last-resort shelter for the displaced so they do not have to sleep in the elements.

In the town of A’zaz and the camps along the Turkey-Syria border, World Vision health teams are seeing an increase in diarrhea and flu-like symptoms among children. Many families fled with no protection from cold and are camped out in cars, mosques or in tents. Many of the tents are overcrowded with as many as three families sharing the space. There are reports from our staff of women giving birth right on the streets without any qualified medical assistance.

''The recently displaced have been living on the front lines of this conflict for several years now,'' said Angela Huddleston, Program Manager for World Vision’s Syria Response. ''For most of these families, shifting lines of conflict mean that it is the second or third time they’ve had to pack up and literally run for their lives. So this time around, they have little left in the way of supplies or belongings.''

World Vision is helping in A’zaz and the camps along the Syria-Turkey border by trucking in water, constructing latrines, and providing supplies for winter – which include blankets and warm clothing -- plus baby kits for families, which contain diapers, diaper rash cream, wipes and other essentials.

An estimated 4.5 million people across Syria are located in areas classified as ''hard to reach'' by the United Nations– half of those are children. This number may grow if additional areas like A’zaz are cut off by conflict.

The Syria crisis will enter its sixth year on 15 March 2016. On 13 March, World Vision Hong Kong will be holding our third annual ''Run for Syrian Children'' event at the Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground. Come join us from 2pm - 6pm in voicing for the voiceless in Syria and raising awareness for the ongoing crisis.

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