More Protection for Healthcare Needed


BANGKOK, 23 May 2014 (IRIN) - Experts are calling for increased protection to healthcare workers and patients in crisis situations in the face of growing attacks on health facilities, which challenge notions of their neutrality.

“We need multiple and reinforcing means to protect health care in situations of violence, including the well-developed mechanisms of human rights monitoring, reporting and accountability,” Leonard Rubenstein, chair of Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, a group of humanitarian and human rights organizations, told IRIN from the World Health Assembly, which is being held from 19 to 24 May in Geneva.

A 2014 report by the Safeguarding Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch documents attacks in 18 countries and claims that both the frequency and severity of violence against health care has increased in recent years - including killings and torture of staff, and damage to facilities and ambulances.

A resolution in January 2012 by the World Health Assembly committed the UN World Health Organization (WHO) to collecting and distributing data on attacks on health workers, facilities, vehicles and patients.

"We are pleased that, as part of its humanitarian reform initiative, the WHO is moving forward in providing global leadership in methods for systematic collection and dissemination of data on attacks on health facilities, health workers, health transports, and patients in complex humanitarian emergencies,” said Rubenstein.

Consultations with humanitarians and NGOs shaping the mechanism are ongoing. Activists and experts say a major impediment to combating increasing rates of violence against healthcare outlets is the lack of centralized data.

The full article continues at on IRIN News’ website.