GENEVA, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Many of the main drugmakers in conflict-torn Syria have closed down, causing severe shortages of medicines for treating chronic diseases and a rising number of casualties, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
Before the 17-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, Syria produced 90 percent of its medicines and drugs, but production has been hit by the fighting, lack of raw materials, impact of sanctions and higher fuel costs, the U.N. agency said.
Ninety percent of Syria's pharmaceutical plants are located in rural Aleppo, Homs and Damascus provinces and they have suffered substantial damage from the escalation in fighting, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.
"Many of these plants have now closed down as a result of the ongoing clashes and increased cost of fuel, resulting in a critical shortage of medicines," he told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.
Drugs for tuberculosis, hepatitis, hypertension, diabetes and cancer are urgently needed, as well as hemodialysis for kidney diseases, according to the WHO.
Health centres have been closed or damaged or taken over by fighters, while others have been cut off by the violence.
"The health facilities that have stopped functioning are located in the most affected areas where the urgent need for medical and surgical interventions is the most prominent," Jasarevic said.
The Syrian health ministry has reported that it has "lost" 200 ambulances over the last few weeks, he added.
The heightened violence in the conflict has recently spread to Syria's two largest cities, Aleppo and the capital Damascus, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the major Arab states.
Fear of the fighting has prompted many citizens to leave their homes. Many banks have run out of cash and the wheat harvest is likely to be wrecked because of the shortage of labour, U.N. agencies have said.
The U.N. World Food Programme, which had hoped to provide 850,000 Syrians with food by the end of July, only managed to reach 542,000, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.
Around 124,000 Syrians have fled across the borders and registered as refugees, while 1.5 million are estimated to be displaced within Syria. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
BEFORE YOU GO
09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air
09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT
Syrian City In Flames
08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT
Lebanese Pilgrim Freed
Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT
This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)
08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT
Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months
Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.
The AP gives more context:
Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.
Read more on HuffPost World.
08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT
A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT
Refugee Numbers Soar
@ KenRoth :
UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j
08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Heaviest Bombardment This Month
Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.
"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.
Read more on HuffPost World.