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Stop the violence. Protect health care now!
by WHO, MSF, IFRC, Health Care in Danger
4:36pm 24th Aug, 2016
19 Nov 2016
Syria: Multiple direct and indirect hits on hospitals in east Aleppo in the last 48 hours. (Report from Médecins Sans Frontières)
The only specialised paediatric hospital in besieged east Aleppo has come under attack for the second time since airstrikes resumed on 15 November, destroying three floors and leaving it out of service. Three other hospitals have also taken direct hits, resulting in casualties among staff and patients and leaving two key surgical hospitals and the largest general hospital out of service.
“This is a dark day for east Aleppo. The severity of the bombing has inflicted huge damage on the few hospitals working around the clock to provide medical care,” says Teresa Sancristoval, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency coordinator.
“The attacks have destroyed entire hospitals, electric generators, emergency rooms and wards, forcing them to stop all medical activities. It is not only MSF that condemns indiscriminate attacks on civilians or civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, but also humanitarian law. The message is simple and I don´t know how to say it any louder: stop bombing hospitals.”
“The children’s hospital has sustained damage for a second time from airstrikes,” says Luis Montial, MSF deputy head of mission for Syria. “This is the only hospital exclusively for children in the besieged area and it is now out of action. The consequences of indiscriminate bombing are very clear: more lives lost, medical services depleted and insurmountable suffering for people trapped by the siege. What is not clear is how much longer the health system, already on its knees, can carry on functioning unless the bombing stops and medical supplies are allowed in.”
East Aleppo’s hospitals have been hit by bombs in more than 30 separate attacks since the siege started in July. All of east Aleppo’s hospitals are supported by MSF, among other organisations.
MSF has been supporting eight hospitals in east Aleppo with medical supplies since 2014. MSF also runs six medical facilities across northern Syria and supports more than 150 hospitals and health centres across the country, many of them in besieged areas. Despite our best efforts, there are many areas – including west Aleppo – where we are currently unable to work, but we continue to push to provide humanitarian and medical aid in these areas.
16 November 2016
World Health Organization (WHO) condemns massive attacks on five hospitals in Syria
WHO condemns the attacks on five hospitals that took place in Syria on 13–15 November 2016, including three hospitals in Western Rural Aleppo and two hospitals in Idleb. At least two people were reportedly killed as a result of the attacks and 19 people were wounded, including six medical staff. Shockingly, such attacks on health in Syria are increasing in both frequency and scale. Throughout 2016, WHO and partners have documented 126 such attacks across the country.
WHO once again demands that all parties in the conflict respect the safety and neutrality of health workers, health facilities and medical supplies. The pattern of attacks indicates that health care is being deliberately targeted in the Syrian conflict – this is a major violation of international law and a tragic disregard of our common humanity.
As the fighting across the country continues, the number of health facilities destroyed or damaged by attacks is increasing, depriving thousands of people in need of urgent and essential health care. The attack of five hospitals and a mobile clinic in less than 48 hours is an outrage that puts many more lives in danger in Syria and deprives the most vulnerable – including children and pregnant women – of their right to health services, just at the time when they need them most.
Attacks on Health Care (World Health Organization)
Escalating conflict and the massive scale of humanitarian needs in the Eastern Mediterranean Region continue to place health care providers at great risk.
Health workers are killed, kidnapped, and assaulted. Health facilities are destroyed, damaged or taken over for non-medical purposes. Ambulances are looted, stolen, shot at and denied travel through checkpoints. Health workers, hospitals, and patients also come under threat due to disruptions to electricity and water supplies, fuel shortages or obstruction of access to besieged populations.
In situations where health care systems are already fragile, threats to health care providers have devastating consequences, going beyond the loss of lives of health workers and the patients they might have saved. Thousands of people every year will die not because they are direct victims, but because the environment becomes too dangerous for effective health care to be delivered.
18 August 2016
Stop the war on hospitals! Dr Ala Alwan - WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean
At least twice a week for the past few months, we have had to condemn attacks on hospitals and clinics in several countries of the Region. With each statement I read about innocent lives lost and health facilities destroyed, and my dismay and despair grow. Despite many condemnations from WHO and other partners, attacks on health care facilities in these countries have continued. Behind every such violation of the norms of decency and our common humanity, there is an enormous tragedy. A mother who has lost a child. Patients who have been buried alive under rubble. Utterly heroic health staff who have lost their lives trying to save the lives of others.
Thousands of health workers remain in Syria, Yemen and Iraq today, committed and faithful to the oath they took to save lives. Some have literally gone underground to keep providing care, refusing to abandon their patients. Have we the right to abandon them?
On World Humanitarian Day, it is time for us all to stand in solidarity side-by-side with these doctors, nurses and paramedics, working at the coal face of human misery and inhumanity, and to say loud and clear that these acts of barbarism must stop once and for all.
The humanitarian community can only do so much to advocate for an end to these attacks. This issue is being consistently raised at the highest levels, including the United Nations Security Council and the International Syria Support Group, yet still the attacks on health care facilities and personnel continue, with disregard for the neutrality of health, international humanitarian law, or United Nations resolutions calling for their protection.
All efforts at diplomacy have so far failed. Attacks on health workers and health facilities are commonplace in many conflicts. It is time to put an end to this indefensible situation. WHO calls on political leaders worldwide to come together and use their influence to put an end to attacks on health care workers and health facilities.
The Eastern Mediterranean Region is facing an unprecedented scale of emergencies, mainly as a result of political conflict in a number of countries. More than 62 million people affected across the Region are in need of health care as a result.
Almost 30 million displaced people – more than half of all displaced persons globally – originate from the Region. The Region also hosts the highest numbers of children suffering from malnutrition as a result of emergencies.
Already weakened health systems are faced with shortages in health staff, vaccines, medicines and medical supplies. Lack of fuel, power and safe water also contribute to deterioration in the provision of health services.
Conflict in a number of countries in the Region has resulted in increased numbers of trauma care injuries, as well as increased risk of infectious disease outbreaks.
Following an escalation of violence in Yemen in March 2015, the crisis was designated a Level 3 emergency by the United Nations in July. This came less than 12 months after the announcement of the crisis in Iraq as a Level 3 emergency in August 2014. The Eastern Mediterranean Region now hosts 3 level 3 emergencies, including the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as a number of long-term protracted emergencies.
#ProtectHealthWorkers is a campaign by WHO focusing on health workers and health facilities, highlighting the challenges and risks they face every day, and monitoring their safety, making sure they remain protected and unharmed.
Syria is now the most dangerous country in the world for health workers. The number of attacks on hospitals and health centres has not gone down in spite of international attention – this year, the number of attacks has gone up. Hundreds of health workers have been killed, and the number of attacks on health facilities is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2016 alone, 71 attacks on health facilities have taken place in Syria.
Thousands of brave, dedicated health workers in Syria have chosen to stay behind and fulfil their oath to save lives. It is our collective responsibility to keep them safe. We will continue to provide them with the health supplies and support they need, and we ask you to join us in keeping them safe.
18 August 2016
Yemen: Indiscriminate bombings and unreliable reassurances from Saudi-led coalition force Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/ Doctors without Borders to evacuate staff from six hospitals in the north
Following the 15 August aerial bombing of Abs hospital in Hajjah governorate, which killed 19 people and injured 24, MSF has decided to evacuate its staff from the hospitals it supports in Saada and Hajjah governorates in northern Yemen: Haydan, Razeh, Al Gamouri, and Yasnim hospitals in Saada, and Abs and Al Gamouri hospitals in Hajjah. The attack on Abs hospital is the fourth and deadliest on any MSF-supported facility during this war and there have been countless attacks on other health facilities and services all over Yemen.
Since the suspension of peace talks between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi forces in Kuwait 11 days ago, the coalition has resumed an intensified campaign in northern Yemen.
Over the last eight months, MSF has met with high-ranking Saudi-led coalition officials on two occasions in Riyadh to secure humanitarian and medical assistance for Yeminis, as well as to seek assurances that attacks on hospitals would end. Aerial bombings have, however, continued, despite the fact that MSF has systematically shared the GPS coordinates of hospitals in which we work with the parties involved in the conflict. Coalition officials repeatedly state that they honour international humanitarian law, yet this attack shows a failure to control the use of force and to avoid attacks on hospitals full of patients. MSF is neither satisfied nor reassured by the Saudi-led coalition''s statement that this attack was a mistake.
Given the intensity of the current offensive and our loss of confidence in the Saudi-led coalition''s ability to prevent such fatal attacks, MSF considers the hospitals in Saada and Hajjah governorates unsafe for both patients and staff. The decision to evacuate the staff – including obstetricians, paediatricians, surgeons and emergency room specialists – from a project is never taken lightly, but in the absence of credible assurances that parties to a conflict will respect the protected status of medical facilities, medical workers and patients, there may be no other option. Based on recent events, this is the case in Hajjah and Saada governorates.
While an independent investigation remains necessary, we must highlight that previous military coalition investigations related to MSF facilities have not been shared with us. “This latest incident shows that the current rules of engagement, military protocols and procedures are inadequate in avoiding attacks on hospitals, and need revision and changes”, says Joan Tubau, General Director of MSF. “MSF asks the Saudi-led coalition and the governments supporting the coalition, particularly the US, UK and France, to ensure an immediate application of measures geared to substantially increase the protection of civilians.”
The hospitals that MSF supports in Saada, Haydan, Razeh, Abs, Yasnim and Hajjah will continue to operate with staff from the Ministry of Health and volunteers. These hospitals are already struggling to keep up with the medical needs caused by the renewed bombing campaigns and the acute needs created or exacerbated by the numerous shortages Yemenis are trying to endure. MSF asks all parties to ensure the safety of these hospitals and to allow them to continue to provide medical care with neutrality and impartiality.
MSF deeply regrets the consequences of this evacuation for our patients and our Yemeni Ministry of Health medical colleagues who will continue to work in the health facilities under unsafe conditions. We hope that the security situation will improve so that the population will have some respite and MSF teams will be able to return to providing much-needed medical care. MSF regrets the collective failure to protect Yemeni civilians from military action and also the failure to help them with adequate humanitarian response.
MSF condemns the way all involved actors – the Saudi-led coalition, the Houthi and their allies – are conducting this war and carrying out indiscriminate attacks without any respect for civilians. MSF wants to once again offer its most sincere condolences to the families of our staff and the patients who died during the attack. That medical staff and sick and injured people are killed inside a hospital speaks of the cruelty and inhumanity of this war.
8 August 2016
Syria: MSF-supported hospital in Idlib bombed to the ground amid increased intensity of attacks
A hospital supported by MSF was destroyed by an aerial bombing in Millis town, Idlib Governorate, Syria on Saturday 06 August 2016, killing four hospital staff and nine others, including five children and two women.
A busy MSF-supported hospital serving a population of 70,000 people was destroyed by aerial bombing in Millis town, Idlib governorate, Syria on Saturday 6 August. Four hospital staff and nine others – including five children and two women – were killed in the two aerial strikes that hit the hospital directly and the two strikes that hit the immediate vicinity of the hospital at around 2pm local time. Six other hospital staff were wounded. The bombing substantially destroyed the building and the hospital is currently closed. This comes in the midst of an escalation in the intensity of conflict in Idlib governorate.
The bombing destroyed most of the hospital building, including the operating theatre, intensive care unit, paediatric department, and around 80 per cent of the medical devices, the ambulances and the generator. Known as a reference centre specialising in paediatrics, the hospital provided essential care for around 70,000 people living in Millis and the surrounding area, where a considerable number of displaced people had moved to escape frontlines of fighting elsewhere in the north of Syria. The hospital provided emergency care or consultations for around 250 patients per day, many of them women and children. Since early 2014, MSF had supported this hospital with supplies and technical advice, and later with financial support for the hospital staff to enable them to continue their work.
“The direct bombing of another hospital in Syria is an outrage,” says Dr Silvia Dallatomasina, medical manager of MSF operations in northwestern Syria. “We have to admire the courage and dedication of Syrian medics continuing to work in the midst of a war where hospitals are so regularly hit in bombing and shelling attacks, and we have a strong sense of obligation to support them in their essential life-saving work. Each time a hospital is destroyed, whether it is targeted or in an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas, it deprives Syrians of another lifeline of healthcare. Some hospitals provide frontline care for war-wounded, others provide frontline care for women having difficult pregnancies; all of them are needed to save lives.”
This attack comes in an environment of renewing intensity of significant mass casualty events in Idlib governorate. In the first six months of 2016, the two largest MSF-supported reference hospitals in Idlib governorate reported seven mass-influxes of wounded, resulting in 294 wounded and 33 dead. In the month of July alone, the same facilities dealt with nine mass-influxes of wounded, resulting in 466 wounded and 37 dead.
“We repeat our urgent call to all those with influence on the conduct of the war in Syria, including the four out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council that are participants in the war, to urgently affect change to stop hospitals being hit in the course of the fighting,” says Dallatomasina. “As humanitarian medics, we will continue to do all we can to boost medical care in Syria, but we need to see an immediate end to attacks on hospitals.”
* MSF runs six medical facilities in the north of Syria and provides support to around 150 other facilities in areas the organisation cannot reach. The nature of MSF’s support includes providing medical supplies; paying a basic salary to hospital staff to enable them to focus on their medical work; providing fuel to enable the hospital generators to function; contributing to the cost of reconstruction when a facility is damaged or destroyed; and providing technical medical advice. Around 70 Syrian facilities receive this comprehensive package of support from MSF, and around 80 other medical facilities are supported in a less-regular fashion, with medical supply donations and technical advice when in critical need, such as after a mass casualty influx.
MSF International President Dr. Joanne Liu, at UN Security Council session. (3 May 2016)
Last Wednesday, airstrikes obliterated Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo. They blew apart at least 50 men, women and children. It killed one of the last remaining paediatricians in the city. A murderous airstrike.
There were almost 300 airstrikes in Aleppo over the last 10 days. Civilians, often in crowds, were repeatedly struck.
What are individuals in wars today? Expendable commodities, dead or alive. Patients and doctors are legitimate targets. Women, children, the sick, the wounded and their caregivers, are condemned to death. Stop these attacks.
I went to Kunduz, Afghanistan following the U.S. attack on our trauma centre on 3 October 2015.
One of the survivors, an MSF nurse whose left arm was blown off during the relentless airstrike, told me something that haunts me daily.
He said that when fighting erupted in Kunduz, MSF told its staff that its trauma centre was a safe place.
“We believed you,” he said. “Did you know that we would be bombed?”
I told him that until 3 October, I truly believed that the hospital was a safe place.
I cannot say that any more about any medical facilities on the frontlines today.
In Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, hospitals are routinely bombed, raided, looted or burned to the ground.
Medical personnel are threatened. Patients are shot in their beds.
Broad attacks on communities and precise attacks on health facilities are described as mistakes, are denied outright, or are simply met with silence.
In reality, they amount to massive, indiscriminate and disproportionate civilian targeting in urban settings, and, in the worst cases, to acts of terror.
The effects of the attacks against health facilities emanate far beyond those immediately killed and injured.
They demolish routine and lifesaving healthcare for all. They make life impossible. Full stop.
On 26 October 2015, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit an MSF hospital in Haydan, in the north of Yemen, leaving at least 200,000 people without lifesaving care.
It was the first of three MSF facilities partially or completely destroyed in Yemen over a period of three months.
Attacks on MSF facilities provide only a glimpse into the brutality of war.
Attacks on other hospitals and clinics – and schools, markets, houses of worship – are routine. Local health workers bear the brunt of these abuses.
We are at a deadly impasse. We can no longer assume that fully functioning hospitals – in which patients are fighting for their lives – are out of bounds. Hospitals and patients have been dragged onto the battlefield.
In Jasim, a town in southern Syria, citizens have protested in front of a hospital to prevent its re-opening. They know what happens to functioning hospitals.
We are facing an epidemic of attacks on health facilities, impeding our ability to do our core work. And to date, our calls for independent investigations have gone unheeded.
Accountability begins with independent and impartial fact finding. Perpetrators cannot be investigators, judges and juries.
Make no mistake: we will relentlessly denounce attacks on healthcare. We will speak out loudly and with force about what we witness in the field.
Medicine must not be a deadly occupation. Patients must not be attacked or slaughtered in their beds.
We physicians take an oath when we join the medical profession. We treat every individual, regardless of who they are, regardless of their religion, their race, or on which side they may fight. Even if they are wounded combatants, or if they are labelled as criminals or terrorists.
Hospitals must not be attacked or forcibly entered by armed personnel, including to search for and capture patients.
To turn our back on these basic principles is to turn our back on the foundation of medical ethics.
Medical ethics cannot be buried by war. The neutrality of war-time medical care cannot be stamped out by state sovereignty or domestic law. Especially in an age of counter-terrorism and counter insurgency – characterized by shifting alliances and murky rules of engagement.
While the nature of warfare may have changed, the rules of war have not.
You are charged with protecting peace and security. Yet four of the five permanent members of this council have, to varying degrees, been associated with coalitions responsible for attacks on health structures over the last year.
These include the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, the Russia-backed Syrian-led coalition.
You therefore must live up to your extraordinary responsibilities, and set an example for all states. I repeat: Stop these attacks.
The discussion here today cannot amount to empty rhetoric. This resolution cannot end up like so many others, including those passed on Syria over the past five years: routinely violated with impunity.
In Syria, where healthcare is systematically targeted, and besieged areas are cynically denied medical care – uphold your obligations.
Ensure the protection of the impartial provision of healthcare in conflict.
Also support the obligations of health workers to treat all sick and wounded without discrimination.
Dr. Maaz, the paediatrician murdered in Aleppo last week, was killed for saving lives.
Today, we remember his humanity and bravery, shared by so many patients, nurses, doctors, communities and MSF staff caught up in areas of conflict.
For their sake: translate this resolution into action. Re-commit – unambiguously – to the norms that govern the conduct of war.
This resolution must lead to all states and non-state actors stopping the carnage.
You must also pressure your allies to end attacks on healthcare and populations in conflict areas. We will not leave patients behind. And we will not be silent. Seeking or providing healthcare must not be a death sentence.
You will be judged not on your words today, but on your actions. Your work has only begun. Make this resolution save lives.
28 April 2016
Airstrike destroys Red Cross, MSF-supported hospital in Aleppo killing 14.
The bombing of the MSF-supported hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday night has killed at least 14 people, and three doctors.
According to hospital staff on the ground, the hospital was destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble. Other airstrikes in the neighbourhood also hit areas close to the hospital.
“MSF categorically condemns this outrageous targeting of yet another medical facility in Syria” said Muskilda Zancada, MSF head of mission, Syria. “This devastating attack has destroyed a vital hospital in Aleppo, and the main referral centre for paediatric care in the area. Where is the outrage among those with the power and obligation to stop this carnage?”
MSF, along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which also supported the Al Quds hospital, both expressed outrage over what appeared to be deliberate targeting of the life-saving facility.
"The recent attack on the ICRC-supported Quds hospital is unacceptable and sadly this is not the first time the lifesaving medical services have been hit," said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC mission in Syria, in a press statement.
"We urge all the parties to spare the civilians. Don''t attack hospitals, don''t use weapons that cause widespread damage. Otherwise, Aleppo will be pushed further to the brink of humanitarian disaster."
Over the last week, several other medical structures have been attacked and destroyed in Aleppo, and five rescue workers from the Syrian Civil Defence organisation have been killed.
MSF has been donating medical supplies to Al Quds hospital since 2012, and has built a very strong working relationship with the staff there.
“Compounding this tragedy is that the dedication and commitment of the staff of Al Quds, working under unimaginable conditions, has been unwavering throughout this bloody conflict,” said Zancada.
The 34-bed hospital offered services including an emergency room, obstetric care, an outpatients department, an inpatients department, an intensive care unit and an operating theatre. Eight doctors and 28 nurses worked full time in the hospital, which was the main referral centre for paediatrics in Aleppo.
* MSF supports more than 150 health centres and hospitals across the country, many of them in besieged areas. Several hospitals across north and south Syria have been bombed since the start of 2016, including seven supported by MSF.
May 2016
The United Nations human rights chief said that the latest reports of civilian deaths and injuries in Syria, including bombings of marketplaces and medical facilities, reveal a “monstrous disregard for civilian lives by all parties to the conflict,” calling for urgent action by all relevant actors to resolve to help the people of Syria.
“Reports are coming in from Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and Rural Damascus, Idleb and Deir ez-Zour of mounting civilian casualties,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra''ad Al Hussein in a statement released by his Office (OHCHR).
“In Idleb last week, on 19 April, bombs were reportedly dropped in a vegetable market in Maarat al-Nu''''man, the busiest area in town, during the busiest part of the day, killing at least 44 people and destroying dozens of shops. In the town of Kafr Nabel, bombs were again dropped on a market in the busiest area of the town, narrowly missing an after-school centre containing 50 children aged 6 to 10,” he added.
In addition, the High Commissioner said that in the opposition-controlled part of Aleppo over the past few days, pro-Government aircraft have destroyed a key hospital and other medical facilities, killing a number of medical personnel, including the only remaining paediatrician in the area, as well as many patients.
In the Government-controlled part of Aleppo, another hospital was struck and many civilians were killed in attacks launched in a number of neighbourhoods.
The High Commissioner said OHCHR has over the years documented numerous attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities as well numerous strikes on marketplaces during busy shopping times – which, depending on the circumstances, may amount to war crimes.
“In any case, these indicate a serious, alarming disregard for one of the cornerstones of international humanitarian law: the duty to protect civilians,” he said.
Civilians also remain trapped in besieged villages, towns and cities across Syria. Many innocent civilians are at risk of starvation and have no access to adequate medical care, the High Commissioner said.
“Urgent action is needed by all relevant actors to ensure the protection of civilians and their right to life, and to fight the impunity that has done so much to encourage the multitude of horrendous breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law that have taken place in Syria over the past five years,” Mr. Zeid stressed.
“In the context of such an abysmal situation, the persistent failure of the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court is an example of the most shameful form of realpolitik,” the High Commissioner said.
“In the minds of many, the world''s great powers have in effect become accomplices to the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and the displacement of millions. There is currently no disincentive for any of the many war criminals in Syria to stop contributing to the wild spiral of killing and destruction that has engulfed the country,” he added.
The High Commissioner urged the international community to “address the terrible suffering of the Syrian people with the resolve that has been so absent for so long.”
May 2016
New Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition shows global pattern of impunity, calls for international accountability for strikes on health care workers and facilities.
In conflict zones around the world, health care workers and facilities are under relentless attack, according to a new report “No Protection, No Respect” from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition.
The coalition of more than 30 nongovernmental organizations found that during 2015 and the first three months of 2016, deliberate or indiscriminate strikes on health care have killed medical workers and patients, decimated medical infrastructure and robbed countless civilians of vital medical care in 19 countries around the world. The report also found that, in many instances, parties to conflicts failed to take required steps to avoid harm to medical facilities, staff and patients, and obstructed access to health care.
“The report shows both the pervasiveness and variety of attacks on health facilities, staff and patients globally,” said Leonard Rubenstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the coalition’s chair. “Sometimes the attacks are deliberate, sometimes they’re a product of indifference to the harms caused and sometimes they represent gross failures to take steps needed to prevent death and injury—but all violate long-standing obligations under international law.”
In its third annual report, the coalition found evidence that hospitals and ambulances were specifically targeted in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, Syria and Thailand, and reports on the murder and kidnapping of polio vaccination teams in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Somalia. Overall, the report shows an alarming frequency and variety of attacks—which deprive countless people of critical medical care.
“In Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, aerial strikes have decimated hospitals and clinics, killing doctors and the patients they are so desperately trying to treat,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at Physicians for Human Rights. “These attacks terrorize and inflict suffering on patients and health care providers. Turning hospitals into battlefields is a grave breach of humanitarian law and an affront to humanity.”
The report describes the burning and looting of hospitals and clinics, as well as brutal attacks on medical staff and patients in facilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen. The coalition also found that the passage of ambulances, medical supplies, or patients seeking care were routinely restricted in Central African Republic, Mali, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, South Sudan, Turkey and Ukraine.
"Perpetrators clearly believe they will suffer no consequences if they attack or interfere with patients, doctors, nurses and hospital staff,” said Laura Hoemeke, director of communications and advocacy at IntraHealth International, a coalition member. “The international community’s failure to halt such attacks has sparked a chain reaction of impunity.”
Among its recommendations, the coalition report calls on the United Nations Secretary-General and the World Health Organization to carefully document and report attacks on health care workers and facilities. The coalition also recommends that the UN Security Council refer such crimes to the International Criminal Court or other tribunals if states fail to fulfill their obligation to halt strikes on health care personnel and infrastructure.
On May 3, the Security Council condemned attacks on health facilities and health workers, reiterating the fundamental principle of the laws of war—that health facilities and medical workers must be protected from attack in armed conflict. It called on countries to take steps to prevent such attacks, investigate them when they happen and prosecute perpetrators.
“The Security Council resolution was a welcome first step,” said Diederik Lohman, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, a coalition member. “But the true test comes with its implementation.”
* Access the Safeguarding Health website via the link below. Access No Protection, No Respect report:
* The coalition report’s lead contributors include the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development, the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Human Rights Watch, Insecurity Insight, IntraHealth International, Physicians for Human Rights, Physicians for Human Rights–Israel, and the Syrian American Medical Society.
Stop the violence. Protect health care (IFRC/ICRC)
In the last few months, a number of attacks against health-care workers, medical transports and facilities have taken place in several countries, like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen to mention a few. These incidents are taking place in countries with fragile health-care systems that are already struggling to treat the numbers of people affected by the ongoing conflicts there. In some cases, the situation is made yet worse by the restrictions placed on aid workers, preventing them from getting to the people who need them.
Both the attacks themselves and their consequences are of serious concern. These were attacks on medical personnel and facilities protected under international humanitarian law, leaving death and destruction in their wake and disrupting vital health-care services. All those involved with the Health Care in Danger initiative are alarmed by the long-term impact these attacks may have on people’s health.
These are not isolated incidents. The International Committee of the Red Cross, through the Health Care in Danger project, has been gathering data in 11 countries since January 2012. By December 2014, 2,398 attacks against health-care personnel, facilities and vehicles had been recorded. This alarming situation highlights the urgent need for measures to prevent future violence.
It is when fighting breaks out that health-care services are most needed, but it is also then that they are most vulnerable to attack. Doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and paramedics, hospitals and health centres and even the wounded and the sick have all come under attack.
This violence disrupts the health-care system when people need it the most. Civilians die because they are prevented from receiving medical attention in time. Entire communities are cut off from vital services, such as maternity care, child care and vaccinations. Sometimes the disruption can be so severe that the entire system collapses.
Violence against health-care workers, facilities and vehicles, therefore, is a most serious humanitarian issue with widespread and long-term effects.
* UN Security Council Resolution 2286 adopted in May condemning attacks on health care workers and facilities in armed conflict:

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