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Syrian girl Uygar Onder Simsek | Stringer via getty images

A Million Ways to Die in Syria

The vulnerability of Syria's people to violence has been compounded by a health system brought to the breaking point – not least by direct attacks on hospitals and clinics. To protect the population, stronger humanitarian interventions must be initiated, and aerial attacks on hospitals must be stopped.

BRUSSELS – Five years into a brutal civil war, there is no shortage of ways to die in Syria. People are starving to death, most notably in the besieged western town of Madaya. Then there is the violence itself. Killing by aerial bombardment remains (so far) the preserve of government and international forces. Non-state armed groups are restricted to artillery and other ground-launched weapons, including grenades, car bombs, suicide bombs, and, of course, guns.

Syria has become a playground for byzantine international power games. What began as a non-violent protest against the government has degenerated into a free-for-all, with women and children paying a disproportionate price and terrorized civilians pouring out of the country.

The vulnerability of the Syrian people is compounded by a health system at the breaking point. Almost half of Syria’s ambulances have been destroyed; more than one-third of its hospitals no longer function; and the flow of pharmaceutical imports has slowed to a trickle, with none reaching rebel-held zones. Moreover, local pharmaceutical production has collapsed; Syria now meets less than 10% of domestic demand, down from 90% before the conflict.

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