For several years, Syria has been in a state of turmoil. If you look at comparison pictures of Aleppo in 2007 and 2017, you would see a beautiful city before and a city in ruin as it stands today. The civil war that started in 2011 has resulted in thousands of airstrikes, destroying much of the city of Aleppo and even remote locations of Syria.
The loss of buildings and landscape of the country can’t even compare to the loss of life the country has seen. According to the I Am Syria website, the total death toll is over 480,000, with over 9,000 of those deaths happen in 2017. Airstrikes, car bombs, and chemical attacks with nerve agents on civilians have forced thousands to flee to neighboring countries, but there are still many people who have no choice but to stay in Syria, leaving them vulnerable to more attacks.
Unfortunately, many of the airstrikes lately have been pointed toward hospitals and treatment centers, killing and injuring both hospital workers and already ailing patients. These attacks have led medical facilities retreating underground, both in the basements of buildings and even in caves.
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) along with many other agencies and organizations around the world have recognized these threats against hospitals in the region and have helped develop over 20 medical facilities underground.
Underground hospitals are certainly nothing new to the world. In World War II, underground hospitals helped save the patients and medical workers from aerial attacks. In the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese forces used a cave in Cat Ba Island to shield their army and build a bunker and hospital within its walls. In this day and age though, it’s a shame that medical facilities must operate in caves to ensure the health and safety of those inside.
Cave hospitals may seem far-fetched, but they are not easily detected and even if an aerial strike were to happen, equipment and people inside would not be as vulnerable than if they were in a building.
Syria has countless caves in its country, making these hospitals a viable option for those living in remote areas of the country.
Many hospitals have already been destroyed, and while the workers and volunteers that show up from around the world continue to work in these broken buildings to save lives, cave hospitals give workers and patients peace of mind that they are protected from potential air strikes.