West's Islamic State focus neglects human tragedy in Syria, doctors say

Orphans attend a gathering organized by Douma charity organization for orphans in Douma , near Damascus December 5, 2014. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh (Reuters)

PARIS (Reuters) - Western states are focusing too much on tackling Islamic State and are forgetting the daily suffering of ordinary Syrians in areas of the country where the medical situation has become catastrophic, a group of Syrian doctors said. Some 200,000 people have died and nearly half the Syrian population has been displaced by the conflict that began with anti-government protests in 2011 and spiraled into full-scale civil war. The situation has been exacerbated since a U.S-led coalition began bombing areas of Syria controlled by Islamic State, which seized swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq last year. "Between 30 to 60 people are dying each day since the bombings started," said Tawfik Shamaa, spokesman for the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM), a non-governmental association that brings together 14 groups. "There is only talk of extremism and Islamic State, but not the women and children who are killed, the bodies torn apart, the stomachs blown open, which is what doctors are dealing with each day." About a dozen doctors operating in Syria for UOSSM, including areas besieged by government forces in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta and Syria's second city Aleppo as well as in Islamic State stronghold Raqqa, met French officials on Monday to outline the situation. While the UOSSM says it remains neutral in the conflict, Paris is its largest donor. The group has about 300 medical posts and 12 dispensaries across Syria, but said its efforts are limited given the lack of medicines, equipment and staff. "The situation is unbearable, catastrophic," said Obaida al-Moufti, a Franco-Syrian doctor. One doctor in Aleppo, who gave his name as Abdelaziz, said there were just five functioning hospitals to cater to 360,000 people encircled by government troops. "There are only 30 doctors of all specialities," he said adding that people were dying of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, scabies and tuberculosis because there were no treatments or vaccines available. In Raqqa, the Islamic State's main Syria stronghold where some 1.6 million people live, another doctor said things were not easy, but not as difficult as elsewhere. "We are allowed to work there, but we have no support from NGOs and services are limited. There are no obstetrics, gynaecology or pediatrics services." The U.S.- led coalition has backed anti-government rebels to counter Islamic State, but it has not targeted government forces. Assad has characterized opponents of his rule as extremists. (Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus)