MONDAY, JULY 16, 2018

WHO addresses health challenges in Syria

The health needs of the Syrian people are enormous and include a desperate need for treatments for heart disease, cancer and diabetes, the director-general of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan made the remarks during a briefing to the U.N. General Assembly. Chan said that as the Syrian crisis enters its fourth year, it has created a public health crisis. The health needs of the Syrian people include functioning hospitals, treatments for chronic diseases and halting the spread of disease.

"At least 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced, often crowded together under unsanitary conditions that favor the spread of disease," Chan said. "Another 2.3 million have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt, creating a heavy burden on these countries."

Chan said that a once flourishing pharmaceutical industry has nearly ceased operations, leading to severe shortages of drugs. The conflict is also placing pregnant women in danger and disrupting immunization programs.

"Immunization programs, which reached 90 percent of children before the conflict, have been disrupted, leaving young children vulnerable to entirely preventable diseases," Chan said. "The steep drop in childhood immunization opened the door for vaccine-preventable diseases to return to Syria. And they did, including polio."

Chan said all parties in the conflict must respect the neutrality and integrity of health facilities. She said both sides must ensure the protection of patients and health workers as part of their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Since the conflict began, more than 100,000 people were killed and more than 600,000 people were injured.