Doctors Without Borders said it took the wrenching decision not to formally inform Syria’s government or its Russian allies about the location of some medical facilities such as the one hit by a deadly airstrike this week.
It came amid concerns that doing so could open them up to targeting in an atmosphere of violence that has killed many civilians.
The charity, also known by its French acronym MSF, says repeated attacks against health facilities during Syria’s five-year civil war have led medical staffers to ask the group not to provide the GPS coordinates of some sites.
This was the case of the makeshift clinic run by the charity in the Syrian town of Maaret al-Numan, which was hit four times in attacks on Monday, killing at least 25 people.
“Deliberate attacks against civilian infrastructures, including hospitals struggling to provide life-saving assistance are routine,” MSF International President Joanne Liu told reporters in Geneva.
“Health care in Syria is in the crosshair of bombs and missiles. It has collapsed. Let me be clear: Attacks on civilians and hospitals must stop. The normalisation of such attacks is intolerable.”
Ms Liu said the group has no certainty about who was responsible for the strikes, but the “probability” was that Syrian or Russian air power was to blame.
She said MSF’s policy of not informing Syrian or Russian officials about the location of health facilities has become a “hot topic” inside the organisation.
Also yesterday, the head of a UN task force on humanitarian aid for Syria said 114 “big trucks” delivered life-saving supplies in the previous past 24 hours for 80,000 people in five besieged areas of the country.
Jan Egeland called the deliveries a “first step” by the task force that was set up last week following a meeting of world and regional powers known as the International Syria Support Group.
He said the supplies are enough to last about a month.
Egeland said the aim is to reach other main besieged areas, or areas surrounded by government or opposition forces, and “hard-to-reach” places within the next week.
He also expressed hopes for progress in air-dropping aid to Deir Ezzor, a city which is currently under siege by the extremist Islamic State group.
MSF said that since war broke out in 2011, the Syrian government has not granted permission for it to provide medical aid in the country, despite its repeated requests.
Because of that, its work has been limited to areas held by opposition forces.
In a new report, MSF details the toll of the conflict on civilians, based on data from 70 hospitals and clinics that it supports in northwestern, western, and central Syria.
In all, 154,647 war-wounded people and 7,009 war-dead were documented in the facilities in 2015, with women and children representing 30-40% of the victims.
“While the data we collected are staggering, they are just a snapshot of a larger toll,” said MS Liu.
“Those injured or dying beyond health facilities supported by MSF remain uncounted. The true situation is very likely far, far worse.”
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