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WHO warns of medicines shortage in Syria

Conflict affecting production and import of essential drugs

WHO Syria medicines shortage

The ongoing conflict in Syria has led a major shortage in medicines, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO reported that homegrown production of medicines has been reduced by 90 per cent following damage and closures to local pharmaceutical facilities.

On top of this decline in production, the main government storage facility for imported medicines has been destroyed during the rebel uprising to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the WHO, this facility held the lions-share of medicines to meet the country's needs in the first quarter of 2013, creating a major health crisis as life-saving products, such as insulin, anaesthetic and intravenous fluids, become increasingly scarce.

Other factors, including economic sanctions, currency fluctuations and budget cuts, are also limiting the country's ability to import medicines for its citizens, said the WHO.

The capacity to provide care in an appropriate setting has also been limited by the conflict, with 36 per cent of the country's public hospitals out of service and 57 per cent damaged.

This has led to many functioning hospitals and private sector faculties being overwhelmed, said the WHO.

To help overcome this shortage of medicines and improve Syria's healthcare capabilities, the WHO  - with help from health experts in Syria - has created an updated Essential Medicines List for the country, which aims to support international aid efforts.

“[T]he list is an essential tool for enhancing the effectiveness of the international community's emergency health response by enabling projection and quantification of essential medicine requirements and the development of standard procurement procedures,” said the WHO.

It is thought that about $900m is needed to cover these essential medicines, as well as medical supplies, medical consumables and anti-cancer medicines, during the next 12 months.

Of these, the WHO has listed 168 “urgently-needed and life-saving items”, which are estimated to require $467m to cover use for 2013.

The charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) also commented on the pressing need for healthcare aid in Syria in its report Syria two years on: the failure of international aid so far, published last week.

“The impact of the bitter civil war on health and medical care has been devastating – the health system has entirely collapsed,” said MSF, claiming that hospitals, clinics and doctors have been specifically targeted by government forces during the two-year conflict.

Government-held areas have also been affected, with hospitals deserted by health staff who are too afraid to work there.

“The situation for ordinary people, whether wounded in the war, needing assistance in childbirth, or care for chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes is desperate,” said MSF, calling on authorities in Damascus, neighbouring governments to Syria and the UN to ensure enough aid reaches those who need it most.

11th March 2013

From: Healthcare

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