WHO Director-General Condemns Attacks on Health Workers and Facilities in Conflict Situations

05/21/2013
Dr. Margaret Chan at the 66th World Health Assembly

In her address to the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 20, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan spoke about the “deeply troubled times” we live in and referenced “assaults on health personnel and health care facilities in conflict situations,” which the World Health Organization condemns “in the strongest possible terms.”

Dr. Chan noted that “[c]onflict situations sharply increase the need for health care” and that “[t]he safety of facilities and of health care workers must be sacrosanct.”

On May 15 the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition sent a letter to Dr. Chan urging her to include in her address a forceful statement condemning attacks on doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel, and other health workers, which are taking place at an unprecedented level. The letter, which was also supported by the World Medical Association, called attention to a new study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which reported that at least 921 violent incidents against health care personnel, infrastructure, and wounded or sick people took place in 2012.

Photo by Pierre Albouy, courtesy of the World Health Organization. (Dr. Margaret Chan addressing the opening plenary of the 66th World Health Assembly)