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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.
The Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition organized a group of 18 nongovernmental organizations from around the world to cosign a letter to World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan last week expressing alarm at the recent spate of attacks on health workers in Pakistan. The group praised the WHO’s dedication to documenting and reporting such attacks as specified by a resolution passed by the World Health Assembly in May 2012, and offered its support in implementing that resolution.
LONDON (AlertNet) - More than half Syria's 88 hospitals have been damaged in the country's bitter civil war, and nearly one third are out of service, making it difficult for people to get medical care, Syrian and U.N. health officials have reported. December data from Syria's health ministry, released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, shows that 48 hospitals have been damaged, of which 27 are no longer operating. Syria's 1,919 public health centres have been less severely affected - around 10 percent are damaged and 6 percent closed.
Twelve of the women who were forced out of their hospital beds when radical Islamists seized the city of Gao in northern Mali have finally been found and treated, thanks to the reinstatement of the Fistula Care Project in Mali. After a long search, the project and its local partner GREFFA located many of the missing women—some of whom had been without care for almost nine months. Project staff then transported them and ten other obstetric fistula patients to Mopti, a city southwest of Gao, where a surgical team provided the treatment, care, and referrals the women so urgently needed.
Côte d'Ivoire: three Ivorian singers – Kajeem, Onakamy and Mawa Traoré – supported by the ICRC, have launched a video clip for the song “C'est une question de vie et de mort.” The video is part of the Health Care in Danger campaign, and is a call for action to all those who can facilitate – or prevent – the vital work of first aiders and medical personnel in situations of violence and other emergencies.
Dear President Obama, In the first years of the Peace Corps, its director, Sargent Shriver, discovered that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was infiltrating his efforts and programs for covert purposes. Mr. Shriver forcefully expressed the unacceptability of this to the President. His action, and the repeated vigilance and actions of future directors, has preserved the Peace Corps as a vehicle of service for our country’s most idealistic citizens. It also protects our Peace Corps volunteers from unwarranted suspicion, and provides opportunities for the Peace Corps to operate in areas of great need that otherwise would be closed off to them.
The cold-blooded and premeditated murder of 8 public health workers in Pakistan this week once again brings attention to an issue that is not being adequately addressed: the protection of health care practitioners and allied workers, of health systems’ infrastructure and services, and of health service beneficiaries. Attacks on health care workers, health facilities/services and beneficiaries violate international humanitarian and human rights law. The consequences of such attacks extend beyond the immediate victims: the beneficiaries of the health services, primarily children and their mothers, suffer the effects of the preventable illnesses that occur as a result of the interruption in much-needed health services.