The Lancet

Correspondence: Attacks on health are war crimes and a public health catastrophe

Sunday, November 12, 2023
The armed conflict in Israel and Gaza has strained the medical systems of both places, particularly in Gaza where at least 40 health-care workers have been killed. The destruction of hospitals and clinics in Gaza, with more than 75 attacks between Oct 7 and Oct 24, 2023, is a tragic echo of both targeted and indiscriminate violence against health care across the globe. The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition reported nearly 2000 incidents of attacks on health care in 2022 globally, and the 2023 trajectory is set to surpass this.

Annual Report Coverage - Targeting health care in conflict: the need to end impunity

Saturday, July 29, 2023
On the morning of May 26, a Russian missile destroyed Dnipropetrovsk City Hospital No 14 in Dnipro, Ukraine, killing at least two people and injuring more than 30. Later that same day, the BBC reported that attacks on medical facilities and staff in Sudan might constitute war crimes. As described in a World Report, such attacks continue in Sudan, including most recently the looting and occupation of centres run by Médecins Sans Frontières, denying Sudanese civilians much needed medical care. From the deliberate targeting of hospitals in Syria and the destruction of the health system in Yemen, to the arrest and abduction of doctors in Myanmar and the persecution of health workers and violations of medical neutrality in Iran, the sanctity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent appears to be at a new low. The uncomfortable truth is that attacks against health facilities and staff in conflicts can be committed largely with legal impunity.

Health care in conflict: war still has rules

Saturday, May 26, 2018
Denouncing attacks on health-care facilities and personnel in conflict situations, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2286 in May, 2016. Addressing the Council, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, condemned military actions leading to destruction of health-care facilities as war crimes, and called on Member States to honour their obligations to protect health-care workers and patients in conflict saying “even war has rules”.

Protecting health care in armed conflict: action towards accountability

Saturday, April 14, 2018
Driven by a deplorable trend of unlawful attacks on health-care facilities and workers in armed conflicts throughout the world, on May 3, 2016, the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2286 calling for an end to such attacks. The Secretary-General followed with recommendations of concrete measures for implementation. However, unlawful attacks on health care have continued or intensified in many conflicts, notably in Syria. We, academic institutions, civil society, and co-sponsoring Member States, convened a side event during the 72nd UN General Assembly to focus global attention on this issue and the imperative that Resolution 2286 be implemented.

Ukraine: Health Workers Fear for Their Safety

Saturday, August 30, 2014
Armed separatists in Ukraine are disrupting health-care services and threatening health professionals, forcing some medical staff to leave their jobs. Human rights organisations have called on both sides in the Ukrainian conflict to respect the neutrality of medical workers amid reports of medical staff being threatened as they do their work, medical equipment being stolen, and the treatment of civilian patients being compromised.

Aid Groups Warn of "Catastrophic" Health Crisis in CAR

Saturday, March 8, 2014
With clashes still continuing in the Central African Republic, aid groups say the health and humanitarian situation looks set to deteriorate even further. Andrew Green reports. There is no guarantee of safety for many thousands of people living in the Central African Republic (CAR), let alone access to health care or other basic services. Months of ongoing clashes between rival militias have left at least 2000 people dead and forced 700 000 others to flee their homes for safety.

Attacks on Medical Care in Syria

Friday, February 28, 2014
Attacks on Syria's medical community and infrastructure have devastated the health-care system. Government forces – and sometimes opposition groups – have deliberately targeted medical professionals, hospitals, ambulances, and supplies, preventing untold numbers of people from getting medical care and stopping medical professionals from providing services when they are critically needed.

Health Professionals Targeted in Ukraine Violence

Saturday, February 15, 2014
Ukrainian doctors and paramedics fearing for their lives have appealed to the international community for help amid claims they are being deliberately targeted by police during bloody clashes between riot police and anti-government protestors in Kiev. International rights monitoring groups as well as local non-governmental organisations have documented scores of attacks and injuries to members of the Red Cross, doctors, and volunteer health workers treating the wounded and injured over the past few weeks.

Protecting Health-Care Workers in the Firing Line

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Several medical associations and non-governmental organisations have launched an initiative to tackle violence against aid workers in conflict zones. Priya Shetty reports. “In Syria, having a medical kit visible on your car seat can be more dangerous than having a Kalashnikov”, says Bruce Eshaya-Chauvin, medical adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). “Health-care workers in conflict zones are literally being hunted down.”