On 26 September 2016, Dr. Mohamad Katoub, Advocacy Manager at Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), delivered an oral intervention on behalf of Defenders for Medical Impartiality (DMI) at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva under item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.


Mr. Vice President,

IDO and Defenders for Medical Impartiality would like to raise our concerns about failures to uphold protections of health professionals and guarantees of the right to health as outlined in the VDPA.

In my country Syria, over 700 health workers were murdered, 90% of whom were killed by government forces and their allies in the past five years. Around 148 health workers were tortured to death in government prisons. The systematic attacks on health facilities by the government is well documented. For the past two months, a medical facility is attacked every 17 hours. This information is collected by over 40 health organizations and forwarded regularly to the U.N. Security Council.

Since the start of the conflict, Syrian American Medical Society has documented over 167 chemical attacks in Syria. Hospitals in besieged areas lack specialists and supplies to treat injuries of conventional weapons, let alone chemical weapons. Well over 1 million Syrians are living under siege. According to the U.N., the government of Syria denied more than 70% of entry requests to besieged areas, hindering the delivery of food and medical aid. Even in areas where aid was allowed in, he Syrian government has removed life-saving items from convoys. In February alone, convoys with 80,000 medical treatments were not allowed to go on or were removed from aid convoys to besieged areas. Furthermore, evacuation of wounded civilians from these areas remains an issue. According to a report by SAMS & Physicians for Human Rights, 65 people died in the besieged town of Madaya between July 2015 and May 2016 while waiting for medical evacuation.

We call on all states to guarantee all protections for health facilities and medical professionals in Syria and to uphold the right to health as outlined under the VDPA.

Thank you.