Advancing Protection of Health in Armed Conflict

Exterior of damaged hospital

On April 26, Leonard Rubenstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will give a presentation at the 13th World Congress on Public Health in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as part of the session Armed Conflict, Human Rights Violations, and Health Impact.

Rubenstein will present Advancing Protection of Health in Armed Conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that violence inflicted on health care services and personnel is one of the most significant and complex yet under-recognized problems in humanitarian practice. Despite firm standards in international law requiring respect for health facilities, health workers, ambulances, and patients in times of conflict, violations are common, and the traditional tools of protection, including reporting, prevention, and accountability have not been brought to bear on them. No agency is responsible for systematic reporting. Prevention activities tend to be idiosyncratic and not shared. Accountability mechanisms the international community has established for violations of human rights have not been applied to attacks. As a result, there is insufficient knowledge about the nature, scope, extent, and impacts of these attacks, and few strategies to reduce them. In the past year, however, initiatives to address the gaps have begun in multilateral organizations including the World Health Organization, the UN Security Council, through a Health Care in Danger campaign by the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, and through activities of academic institutions and NGOs. Means for systematic reporting under uniform standards can be developed, using mobile technologies; prevention strategies can be improved by addressing the protocols and training of conventional militaries and by engaging armed groups; and accountability can be enhanced through existing mechanisms. The public health community has a major role to play in advancing these initiatives and conducting research that can yield information leading to greater protection.

The Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is a founding member of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition.

The session will take place at 2:00 p.m. in the Halfdan T. Mahler Hall (Millennium Hall) on April 26.