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In this photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets and released on Feb. 20, 2018, shows members of the Syrian Civil Defense run to help survivors from a street that attacked by airstrikes and shelling of the Syrian government forces, in Ghouta, suburb of Damascus, Syria.
Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets/AP

UK Pledges £750M to Keep Syrian Hospitals Open Despite 'Relentless Attacks’

If your home is bombed and your hospitals are being targeted by airstrikes and chemical attacks, where do you go for safety and treatment? 

Since the devastating Syrian conflict began in 2011, it’s estimated that at least 478 health facilities have been attacked or destroyed. 

In the first months of 2018, the number of these attacks has increased — with 36 facilities attacked in February alone. 

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At least 30,000 people are injured in Syria every month, and the fight to protect hospitals so these people can access treatment is increasing in urgency.

Take action: Thank the UK for Protecting Children, Teachers, and Schools From Attack

Governments around the world have gathered this week in Brussels, seeking to raise $6 billion in aid for the millions of people facing starvation, airstrikes, chemical attacks, and displacement both in Syria and in neighbouring countries. 

The UK has supported the efforts, announcing on Wednesday a commitment to spend at least £450 million this year to help alleviate the extreme suffering of Syrians, and a further £300 million in 2019. 

“Syria is now one of the most dangerous places on earth for aid workers and medical staff,” said Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development secretary, at the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference in Brussels.

Read more: Palestinian Refugees Trapped in Syria Are Running Out of Food and Medicine

“Medical facilities and schools have been deliberately targeted, aid has been blocked to starve communities into submission, and rape and sexual violence have been deployed as routine weapons of war,” she said.

“Today’s pledge of UK aid support will help keep medical facilities open in the face of relentless attacks so doctors and nurses can save the lives of innocent Syrians, as well as helping the millions of Syrian refugees sheltering in neighbouring countries,” she said. 

The funding will help train thousands of doctors and nurses to deliver trauma care in the most extreme conflict zones, including how to remove shrapnel and treat injuries from blasts, burns, and wounds from mortar fire. It will also provide medical supplies such as sutures, oxygen, blood, and anaesthetics. 

Read more: How Muppets Are Helping Refugee Kids Get an Education

The aim is to keep medical facilities open, including by training military personnel, security forces, and health workers in protecting medical services in a conflict. The funding will also provide blast proofing materials and sandbags to help reinforce the medical facilities that have moved underground to avoid attacks.

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But, as well as raising funds, it is also hoped that the conference will offer Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his backers — Russia, Turkey, and Iran — a chance to renew peace efforts. 

Mordaunt said the UK is calling for an immediate ceasefire and safe access, so “brave aid workers and medical staff can do their jobs without fear of attack.” 

“It is clear the Syrian regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, will attempt to block every diplomatic effort to hold the regime accountable for these reprehensible and illegal tactics,” Mordaunt said.

Read more: 76,000,000 Don't Have Enough Food. Here's How Food Aid Helps Them

“We’re here to address the urgent humanitarian needs in Syria and the wider region, but all of us here know that the only solution to end the suffering in Syria is a political settlement that brings peace,” she added. “The longer they delay, the more people are going to die, and the more misery and destruction will be inflicted on Syria.” 

The latest commitment brings the total amount that the UK has pledged in humanitarian funding to the Syrian region to £2.71 billion — making it one of the biggest donors of aid to Syria, alongside the US, Norway, and Japan, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation

In total, UK aid has already delivered over 27 million food rations, 10 million relief packages, 10 million vaccines, and 12 million health consultations for those in need in Syria.

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