By Rami al-Khattib

HAMA: More than 600,000 residents of the northern Syrian countryside are without access to healthcare this month, after a series of Syrian government and Russian airstrikes severely damaged three hospitals in rebel-held Hama province earlier this month, the opposition-run Health Directorate reported.

The directorate announced in a March 10 statement that between February 25 and March 8 government and Russian airstrikes heavily damaged the Central Sham Hospital, the a-Shaheed Hassan al-Araj Hospital and the Kafr Zeita Specialty hospital, all located in the northern Hama countryside.

Two of the hospitals, a-Shaheed Hassan al-Araj and Central Sham, were built underground to prevent being damaged by airstrikes. According to the Directorate of Health in Hama, the government used high-explosive bombs and rockets to penetrate the surface of the ground.

The loss of the hospitals places a heavy burden on Hama’s medical sector, says local doctor Abduallah Darwish. He adds that repairing the hospitals could cost upwards of $80,000 each, money that the directorate does not have.

On March 7, six airstrikes struck the Kafr Zeita Specialty Hospital in Hama’s northern countryside, taking the hospital completely out of service, says Muhammal al-Araj, the hospital’s administrative director. The hospital provided first responder services for residents and contained sections for women and children.

That same day, airstrikes targeted the a-Shaheed Hassan al-Araj hospital in Kafr Zeita. On March 8, the hospital was targeted by high-explosive rockets that caused heavy structural damage, hospital director Abdelrazaq Abu Muhammad tells the Syrian Voice.

On March 8, the Central Sham Hospital in Kafr Nubl, the largest hospital in the region, was hit by airstrikes that bore through the ground and “completely destroyed” the top floor of the building, says local doctor Muhammad al-Araj.

In addition to providing services to 600,000 people, the hospitals also performed more than 700 major operations, 500 minor operations and 70 caesarian sections each month. Additionally, approximately 105,000 patients used the hospitals each month.

In its statement, the directorate of health called on international organizations and groups to help repair the hospitals and assist in providing healthcare to Hama residents.

The directorate mentioned that it is not a political group, and its only concern is providing healthcare to Syrians in Hama province.

Translated by Justin Clark