By Leen Othman
BALAMAND AL KURAH, Lebanon – When put together, war and sanctions can lead to a catastrophic situation, one that is being experienced in Syria today.
Over the past five years, a war has been ravaging in Syria. This conflict led to the destruction of Syrian infrastructure, but it was not the only factor that contributed to what Syria looks like today.
In the last five years, there has been a lot of controversy over whether or not European and United States sanctions are damaging Syria’s medical services, or if they are helping in ending the ongoing struggle, as some might believe.
As a Syrian premed student at the University of Balamand in our neighboring country of Lebanon, I believe that the embargo imposed on Syria is playing a major role in bringing down the Syrian medical infrastructure at a time when therapeutical demand is most needed.
That fact that medical supplies are listed in the Syria sanctions program is primary evidence that these prohibitions are damaging Syria’s medical services.
The Syrian sanctions program is one of the most comprehensive penalty programs currently applied. The agenda did not include curative stock at first, but as the combat escalated, international pressure on the fighting parties also increased.
Expansion in prohibitions was how Europe and the United States expressed their growing frustration with the Syrian situation. Soon, the embargo included medical trade, which led to potentially irreversible consequences on health services.
A 2013 U.S. Treasury Department document detailing sanctions on Syria prohibits “direct or indirect exportation, re-exportation, sale or supply of any services to Syria from the United States or by a U.S. person, wherever located.”
Evidently, medicine and health disbursements are classified under what is denied from entering Syria.
The restrictions have played a significant role in weakening the Syrian economy and elevating prices of medical necessities. It’s led to the collapse of the exchange rate, which reduced the living standards of the Syrian community and impacted public health.
Restrictions also imposed on crude oil caused a deficiency in electrical and heating services, which further stressed public health.
Ostracizing Syria through sanctions is not only playing a small, limited role in ending the crisis, but worse, is creating a negative counter effect on Syrian lives. The obstructions have only succeeded in keeping the attention on the struggle instead of directing efforts towards ending the warfare.
Sanctions imposed on Syria wrecked the medical institutions at a time of conflict when they are needed most. Weapons are getting through, but not medical supplies.
An obvious solution would be to lift the sanctions as a first step towards putting an end to the crisis. The future of Syria will be quite dark if the world’s nations do not cooperate soon to end the struggle.
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