The International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Medical Association are working together to respond to increased violence against healthcare providers and facilities in war-torn areas around the globe.
With violence affecting medical care in conflict-ridden countries worldwide, two major health-related groups are joining forces to help keep doctors, nurses, patients, and facilities safe.
Evidence of the need for work on this front is clear: A recent study by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that in 2012, 921 violent incidents directed against healthcare personnel, facilities, and vehicles took place in a combined 22 countries affected by armed fighting.
“However, they are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Pierre Gentile, head of the ICRC’s Health Care in Danger project, noting that many incidents go unreported.
With the help of the World Medical Association, which represents medical associations worldwide, the ICRC hopes to keep medical professionals safer in the field. More details:
The ICRC’s 2013 report “Violent Incidents Affecting Health Care” details the variety and depths of the dangers facing medical workers. First responders dealing with bombing incidents find themselves in danger of being caught in follow-up attacks. Routine medical care, such as vaccinating patients, is disrupted by violence that both causes injuries and sets back disease prevention efforts.
The violence also takes a toll on healthcare infrastructure, such as clinics and ambulances. Of the incidents analyzed, 355 affected health care infrastructure only, while 200 affected both infrastructure and human lives.
A New Partnership
In light of the report, the ICRC and the WMA have signed a memorandum of understanding, promising to work together as part of the Health Care in Danger project. With the help of experts, the project, created in 2011, provides tangible solutions for preventing violence as well as protecting personnel when situations arise.
“Together with the ICRC, we will continue to highlight and address this damage that is being done to the delivery of healthcare in conflict zones, uprisings, and mass protests around the world,” Dr. Otmar Kloiber, the WMA’s secretary-general, said in a press release. “Because local healthcare agencies and providers are the first affected, it makes sense that national medical associations represented by the WMA play a key role in identifying concrete measures at a local level to improve security for patients and healthcare workers alike.”
Emphasizing the importance of protecting healthcare workers and the ethics of treating patients equally no matter the political climate, Bruce Eshaya-Chauvin, ICRC’s medical adviser, explained: “In situations of armed violence, the wounded or sick are sometimes refused treatment. Discrimination, even arising from a polarized climate, is not acceptable.”