Newsletter: The worst atrocities against health care continue


Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition Update
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Dear friends,
For the past five years, members of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition and colleague organizations have revealed the global scope of attacks on health services and their severe consequences, strengthened norms against attacks, devised more sophisticated prevention strategies, and engaged United Nations agencies to make protection and respect for health care an international priority. This past May, these campaigns led to a resolution at the UN Security Council that strongly reaffirmed norms against violence against health care and called for preventive measures and accountability. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization recognized its leadership on global health had to include work to stop these assaults.
But has security of health care increased? The answer is: to some extent. Increased police protection to enable vaccinators to do their jobs (at the cost of the lives of many police) in Pakistan has finally brought the country to the cusp of eradication of polio. The Security Council in August authorized a strengthened force to protect civilians in South Sudan; though controversial and resisted by the government, it has potential to offer greater security for health care. The United States finally stopped selling cluster munitions for Saudi Arabia to use in Yemen.
But the worst atrocities against health care continue. Starting before and continuing after the Security Council resolution, Syria and its ally, Russia, escalated their attacks on health facilities. Coalition member Physicians for Human Rights documented that the 43 attacks on hospitals and clinics in July was the highest number during a single month since the war began. At a Security Council hearing in August, Dr. Zaher Sahloul of coalition member Syrian American Medical Society described the horrors from a doctor's perspective. Council members listened attentively to doctors’ plea for action, not sympathy, and condemned those who bombed hospitals, but sidestepped the demand for action. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continued indiscriminate bombing in Yemen, in mid-August hitting a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital that killed or wounded 30 people and forced MSF to pull out of five facilities. More health facilities were shelled in South Sudan.
So we are in a crisis now: the facts are known, the norms are clear, institutions to compel adherence are in place, but the attacks continue. It is no longer sufficient to say attacks on health care are unacceptable. It is no longer enough to condemn. Only action to stop them and accountability for those who inflict grievous harms will make a difference. 
—Len Rubenstein, Chair
Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition
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Coalition Updates

In Conflict Zones Worldwide, Medical Facilities and Personnel in 19 Countries Are under Relentless Attack

Deliberate or indiscriminate strikes on health care from January 2015 to March 2016 killed health workers and patients, decimated health facilities and infrastructure, and robbed civilians of vital medical care in 19 countries around the world. The coalition's new report, “No Protection, No Respect,” shows the global pattern of impunity and calls for international accountability for attacks on health.


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The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition Welcomes Passage of UN Resolution Condemning Attacks on Health

A new UN Security Council resolution condemns attacks on health workers and facilities and sets a course to secure compliance with international law and end impunity. The value of the resolution, however, will be determined by whether states adhere to international norms, develop strategies to prevent attacks, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Our Report
Cover of No Protection, No Respect report
PBS Video
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From Coalition Members/Observers and UN Agencies
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O'Brien's Statement to the UN Security Council

"What is happening in Aleppo today and throughout Syria over the last five years is an outrage against every moral fiber in our being," said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien on August 22. He asked the Security Council to honor the health and humanitarian workers in Syria and around the world by "agreeing to stop the guns, the shells, the airstrikes, and the bombs." 

Cover of WHO's report on attacks on health

Attacks on Health Care: Prevent. Protect. Provide. 

The World Health Organization compiled and analyzed secondary data on attacks on health care in emergencies. The report aims to provide a better understanding of the extent of the problem; inform WHO's priority actions; and inform the actions of national decision-makers, health care providers, and others as they work to ensure health care is provided to all those who need it–in safety.

Map showing Syria

Press Release: 43 Attacks Marks July as the Worst Month for Attacks on Healthcare in Syria
July was the worst month for attacks on health care since the beginning of the conflict. There were 43 attacks on health facilities in Syria in July, more than one attack every day. In 2015, this number of attacks occurred over six months with 47 attacks between January and May.

Cover of PHR and SAMS report on Madaya

Madaya: Portrait of a Syrian Town Under Siege
Physicians for Human Rights and Syrian American Medical Society report on the Syrian government's siege of Madaya in July 2015. Without access to food, supplies, and medical care, 40,000 residents have suffered from starvation and malnutrition, and other life-threatening conditions.

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Syria: Government Airstrikes Closing Down Hospitals
Human Rights Watch says the United Nations Security Council should ask the Secretary General to conduct an independent inquiry into the recent attacks on hospitals in Syria and build a case to prosecute.

ICN and WMA logos

Physician and Nursing Leaders Condemn Syrian Attacks on Health Personnel
Leaders of the World Medical Association and the International Council of Nurses said the persistent and targeted attacks on doctors, nurses, and other health professionals have reached unprecedented levels that should alarm the world.

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Pakistan: Karachi Says No to Violence against Health Care Workers
Violence against health services and health workers in Pakistan is an all too familiar occurrence. But now an exemplary initiative—the Health Care in Danger project—is tackling the problem, one which could be replicated elsewhere in Pakistan and beyond.

Image of South Sudan

A Colleague Lost, and the Unknown Devastation of Attacks on Health Care
We know very little about what happened to Sister Veronika Rackova, a physician and nun who was loved by her community in South Sudan. We know someone shot her ambulance and she died four days later. She was one of more than a thousand people killed in the last 15 months as a result of attacks on health care.

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On World Humanitarian Day, Remember Local Health Workers
When you think of a humanitarian, what image comes to mind? A foreign aid worker? A group of missionaries? Here's another picture: local health workers on the front lines in the communities where they grew up providing humanitarian services every day.

In the Media

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Armenia Standoff: Four Medics 'Taken Hostage' 


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Syrian Government Forces Hit Hospitals in Aleppo's 'Worst Week': Rights Group

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Health Care Is ‘Under Siege’ in South Eastern Turkey: Report 


Yemen: Airstrike on MSF-Supported Hospital Kills at Least 11, Wounds at Least 19

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The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition promotes the security of health workers and services threatened by war or civil unrest. We monitor attacks on and threats to civilian health; strengthen universal norms of respect for the right to health; demand accountability for perpetrators; and empower providers and civil society groups to be champions for their right to health.
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