Attacks on health workers in conflict zones at highest level ever

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Attacks on health workers in conflict zones reach unprecedented levels. Learn about the alarming rise and its impact on global healthcare

Surge in Attacks on Healthcare in Conflict Zones Reaches Record High in 2023

 

Attacks on health workers in conflict zones at highest level ever

A new report reveals that 2023 witnessed a dramatic 25% increase in attacks on healthcare workers, hospitals, and clinics in conflict zones, reaching the highest level on record. This surge, driven by new conflicts in Gaza and Sudan, and ongoing violence in Ukraine and Myanmar, resulted in over 2,500 documented incidents, according to the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition.

 

The coalition's findings paint a grim picture of violence against healthcare, including the killing and kidnapping of health workers, and the bombing, looting, and occupation of medical facilities. These acts, deemed "violence against or obstruction of healthcare," underline the perilous conditions under which medical professionals operate in war zones.

 

The coalition has called for robust national and international legal actions against perpetrators of these attacks, categorizing them as "war crimes and crimes against humanity." The report highlights particularly egregious cases, such as attacks on children’s hospitals and immunization sites, exacerbating the risk of infectious disease outbreaks.

 

Leonard Rubenstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who chairs the coalition, described the violence as having "reached appalling levels." He noted that the attacks often appear to be deliberate, with combatants showing a blatant disregard for the laws protecting healthcare.

 

Rubenstein emphasized that the widespread impunity for these crimes has persisted for more than a decade, despite repeated commitments from governments to reform military practices and cease arms transfers to perpetrators. This failure to enforce accountability continues to undermine the protection of healthcare in conflict zones.

 

The report identified 2,562 incidents in 2023, including 685 cases of health worker abductions and 487 fatalities, nearly double the number recorded in 2022. Additionally, many health facilities were damaged or repurposed for military use, further straining already fragile health systems.

 

The destruction of health infrastructure has long-term consequences, rendering healthcare access increasingly difficult even after conflicts subside. This is evident in regions like Tigray, Ethiopia, and Yemen, where the aftermath of violence has left healthcare systems in disarray.

 

The coalition's report underscores the urgent need for global leadership in condemning and prosecuting violence against healthcare. Rubenstein pointed to recent statements by World Health Organization officials as potential foundations for stronger international responses. He welcomed the International Criminal Court's announcement of seeking arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli officials for war crimes, emphasizing the need for accountability for attacks specifically targeting healthcare.

 

The relentless assault on healthcare in conflict zones demands immediate and concerted action to protect medical professionals and ensure the continued provision of critical health services to vulnerable populations.


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CRN News Update - Latest Breaking News: Attacks on health workers in conflict zones at highest level ever
Attacks on health workers in conflict zones at highest level ever
Attacks on health workers in conflict zones reach unprecedented levels. Learn about the alarming rise and its impact on global healthcare
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