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At the twenty-second session of the Human Rights Council in March, the council passed a resolution on children and the right to health (Rights of the child: the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health). In a section on “Health issues relating to children requiring special attention,” the council included language on children affected by armed conflicts. Paragraphs 25 and 27 are of particular interest to the work of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition:
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published a new report on the complex emergency situation in Mali. The report highlights some of the current challenges the health system is still facing in the wake of armed conflict in the North, along with updates from other sectors. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continues to grow, with 3,500 newly displaced people adding to their ranks over the last several weeks around Talhandak, in the Kidal region.
Two Perspective articles in the March 21 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine focus on the need to safeguard health in conflict situations. In Security of Health Care and Global Health, Robin Coupland shares her views on threats to health care during conflicts. These threats are “not just an issue for humanitarian aid agencies,” she argues.
As the Syrian crisis passes the two-year mark, refugees number over one million, 70,000 people have died and 350,000 have been injured, and the health system is severely disrupted. On March 15 the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean issued a situation report describing the effects of the crisis on health in the region.
Jerusalem: The WHO oPt released a report today, March 5, 2013, which details the difficulties that thousands of Palestinian patients encounter in obtaining Israeli permits to access specialized health care in East Jerusalem, Jordan and Israel. Restrictions also affect access into Jerusalem for ambulances and health personnel from the West Bank to the East Jerusalem hospitals.
A UN commission of inquiry on Syria issued a report on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the country. Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic includes language relating to health workers and facilities.
First Pakistan, now Nigeria. Polio workers murdered on the job. Between December and January, at least 16 polio workers were killed in Pakistan, according to Reuters—and today, nine female health workers were slain in northern Nigeria, also while working on a polio eradication campaign. In the mountainous countryside of Pakistan, health workers often walk long distances to reach the population they serve.
French and Malian flags are flying throughout the capital city of Bamako today after French troops helped to liberate northern Mali from the radical Islamists who have occupied the region for almost a year. On Sunday, January 27, French and African troops took back the city of Gao, where jihadists used the Gao School of Nursing—once a thriving educational institution—as a base of operations. The next day, the troops liberated the ancient desert city of Timbuktu.
The conflict in Syria is an escalating humanitarian and public health catastrophe. Civilians are currently caught between two armed factions: the Syrian military loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the Free Syrian Army opposition. According to the UN, the 2-year long conflict has already resulted in an estimated 60000 civilian casualties and tens of thousands injured. As if the direct effects of military force on Syrians were not enough, there has also been a full-scale assault on the health infrastructure.
The recent series of fatal attacks on teachers and public health workers associated with vaccination programmes in Pakistan (Jan 5, p 1) have been utterly devastating. These killings have shattered the lives of the families of those who died serving their communities with basic health services. They will also undermine the effectiveness of vital public health interventions through disrupted delivery, reduced confidence, and a demoralised workforce.