Deaths from long term illnesses mean true Syria war toll ‘far higher’ says DEC

26/03/2013

Uncounted deaths of people in Syria with diabetes, heart conditions and other chronic illnesses mean the true death toll of the war is far higher than the reported 70,000, the DEC said today.  The deaths are happening because the health service has collapsed with one third of hospitals and ninety percent of drug factories [1] out of action.
 
Staff from DEC member agencies report seeing clinics where up to half the reported deaths have been from normally treatable chronic conditions.  Insulin, oxygen, anaesthetics, and intravenous fluids are in desperately short supply, seriously compromising the ability of clinics to provide on-going treatment of chronic diseases. Aid agencies believe that factoring mortality from chronic diseases in would push official death tolls much higher.
 
Elizabeth Berryman, Merlin Health Advisor for Asia and the Middle East said:
 
“Two years ago Syria was not a country where diabetes would be life threatening but the war has all but destroyed health services. If the fighting were to stop tomorrow we would be looking at ten to fifteen years to rebuild the health system and months, maybe years to repair the damage to people’s health – for some it will be too late.”
 
“Aid agencies desperately need funding to be able deliver the full range of essential medical services.”
 
Syria’s pharmaceutical industry was concentrated in Aleppo and rural Damascus, areas that have been badly affected by the conflict. Drug production has stalled, and after more than two years of fighting supplies are running dangerously low. Drugs like insulin and specialist care like dialysis and chemotherapy are now unavailable for the majority of people who need them. Where they can be bought, prices on the black market have skyrocketed making them unaffordable for all but the wealthiest Syrians.
 
Julia Brothwell from British Red Cross recently visited a hospital in one suburb of Damascus. She said:
 
“At the clinic we were shown a room containing eight dialysis machines; each one fully occupied.  Normally patients would have three treatments a week; at this clinic the patients are down to one treatment per week, each lasting around four hours.  That’s sixteen patients a day, 112 patients a week and still there are 40 patients on the waiting list.  There is no chance that any of them will receive a new kidney unless they leave Syria and most are now too ill, or too poor, to do that.”
 
Clinics are also suffering from a lack of fuel, power and staffing. Doctors and other healthworkers have been targeted, some have been arrested, killed or have fled the country. 
 
Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the DEC said:
 
“The collapse of Syria’s healthcare system means many people are dying as an indirect consequence of the fighting. These people are also victims of the conflict”.
 
ENDS
 
[1] http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Syria%20Humanitarian%20Bulletin%20No%2021.pdf