The situation in Tal Abyad

Posted on Jun 17, 2015

Members of the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG), backed by other opposition groups in Syria, have taken control of Tal Abyad in Northern Syria. Until December 2014, NORWAC ran a project aimed at upgrading and supporting the National Hospital of Tal Abyad (NHTA) with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). NORWAC is now attempting to get confirmed information about the current situation at NHTA.

In the spring of 2013, NORWAC visited the town of Tal Abyad to meet with the town’s municipality and hospital management of NHTA. The objective of NORWAC’s commitment was mitigating the humanitarian crisis created by the armed conflict in the area. Furthermore, it was important for NORWAC to support the health services inside Syria to relieve pressure on neighbouring countries, in this case Turkey. In September 2013, NORWAC began supporting the hospital, in cooperation with Doctors without Borders, International Medical Corps, and Qatar Red Crescent Society. The support was under the condition of following the Geneva Conventions and International codes of medical ethics. This means that the hospital is required to receive and treat everyone in need regardless of sectarian, political or military affiliations.

In June 2014 Daesh (ISIS), seized the city of Tal Abyad and neighboring villages. Initially, Daesh made no changes in hospital management and were mostly concerned with keeping the hospital operating normally. In light of this, NORWAC continued to support the hospital’s services. However, The Norwegian MFA decided to end its support to the hospital in December 2014. NORWAC regretted this decision, pointing out potential consequences for the Syrian civilians who receive services from the hospital.

NORWAC is proud to have worked with the dedicated staff of the NHTA. We believe it is important to seize the current opportunity to resume the support/rebuilding of NHTA, and other health infrastructure inside Syria. Firstly, because many people are not able to flee Syria to neighboring countries due to the security situation or health conditions. People in need of medical attention; severely sick, chronically ill, the elderly, and infants are the most vulnerable groups during migration. Consequently, they are not likely to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Securing health services close to their place of residence is therefore vital. Secondly, because Syria is experiencing a considerable medical "brain drain" as thousands of doctors, nurses and other health personnel escape the violence. Thirdly, the increasing numbers of people in need of medical help is straining existing health services in each of the neighboring countries. By ensuring health services inside Syria we may reduce the pressure from refugees on host communities.


By Stein Omar Gjendem