Belgium heard: Geneva appeal by 49 States in favor of access to health care in Syria

date: 19 February 2013

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders welcomes Tuesday's appeal made in Geneva by 49 states at the Syrian Humanitarian Forum to demand access to health care in Syria. Humanitarian organisations think this area is a priority. The facts are alarming: according to the UN, 55% of hospitals are destroyed and more than a third are disabled. More than two thirds of ambulances in the country are damaged and some are used for military purposes. In addition to this, medical staff are prevented from doing their work and patients are threathened.

For months, Didier Reynders and the Belgian diplomacy have been engaged to sensibilise Member States on this issue, both bilaterally and in international fora. Despite the deadlock in Syria, the Minister wishes to improve the situation on the ground for the Syrian people. In several statements the European Union called upon the parties in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law with respect to health care. These efforts have led to the establishment of a group of countries sharing these concerns and which decided to work together to promote this initiative. The joint statement is the result of these multiple diplomatic demarches.

The joint statement issued in Geneva calls the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law with respect to access to health care in Syria and to facilitate the work of humanitarian actors. The humanitarian objective is to remind parties that they must protect medical personnel, facilities and vehicles and ensure humanitarian access throughout the country. For its part, the whole international community should use its influence with the parties so that they meet their obligations and protect medical and humanitarian assistance to Syria.

This is the first text on this issue approved transregionally and issued in the Syrian Humanitarian Forum. The statement made by the Ambassador of Belgium was supported by 49 States representing the 5 continents.

Didier Reynders hopes that this appeal will be heard by all parties and that the situation will improve on the ground for the Syrians. After more than 23 months of conflict, which becomes more and more violent, they need now more than ever urgently medical care.
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