Health workers and hospitals in war zones around the world are being actively targeted for attack, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which is launching a four-year global campaign to raise awareness of the issue.
“In Sri Lanka and Somalia, hospitals have been shelled; in Libya and Lebanon, ambulances have been shot at; in Bahrain, medical personnel who treated protesters are on trial; and in Afghanistan, the wounded languish for hours in vehicles held up in checkpoint queues,” the ICRC says in its report ‘Health care in danger: making the case’.
The attacks are not limited to particular conflict zones, countries or continents but are widespread, deliberate and on the increase.
“From Colombia to Gaza, and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Nepal, there is a lack of respect for the neutrality of health-care facilities and personnel, and medical vehicles, among both those attacking them and those who misuse them for military gain,” says the ICRC.
The effects are reductions in people willing to undertake the increasingly dangerous, life-saving work in warzones as well as knock-on effects that reach into war-affected communities where vaccination programmes grind to a halt or routine healthcare cannot be given.
The ICRC is calling for an end to the “common” practice of targeting health workers and hospitals in war zones.