Prioritising the protection of health care during armed conflict

The International Health Protection Initiative (IHPI) believes that health care MUST be protected during armed conflict. IHPI is a movement of individuals, organisations, institutions and charities (including non-Governmental Organisations-NGOs) who have agreed to help lobby the United Nations to act to uphold the Geneva Conventions, especially as regards safe-guarding health facilities/equipment/transport, and healthworkers.  A Resolution was agreed following a meeting of the International Child Health Group (ICHG) held in November 2010 and the resolution was placed on this website seeking possible endorsement.

Two organizations aiming to help protect healthcare were established after the meeting of the ICHG.  These are  The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (of which the IHPI was a founding member) and the Healthcare in Danger project of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.  These organisations have helped identify the magnitude of this desperate problem (see NEWS section) but despite their efforts the situation globally is worsening.

Thanks to all who have signed up, IHPI's  resolution is now supported by many international organisations involved in healthcare and is in the process of being submitted to the United Nations Security Council. The resolution stresses that healthcare during armed conflict must be protected by the UN, even if doing so breeches national sovereignty and requires military action by appropriately trained UN forces; all to be first agreed by the UN Security Council.

The IHPI welcomes and fully supports today’s (3rd May 2016) UN Security Council resolution that condemns attacks on health workers and facilities and sets out a course to secure compliance with international law and end impunity.
The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (of which the IHPI is a founder member) has released a statement regarding this resolution, which you can view here.


Background to the IHPI Resolution


"War...is when some adults who don't know what good is and what love is, are throwing dangerous war toys which injure innocent people"  Tamara aged 10 years during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovena.

7th July 2012  Dr Jim McDermott and Dr. Stephen N. Xenak in an important article call for more effective intervention by the USA in Syria to protect healthcare. They state "To protect vulnerable civilian communities all around the world, Congress and the administration must fully support and enact as soon as possible the Medical Neutrality Protection Act — a bill that bans the sale of select U.S. military assistance to countries whose governments attack hospitals, detain doctors, intimidate patients and commit other violations of medical neutrality".


21st May 2012  Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) published a report entitled:  "Under the Gun: Ongoing Assaults on Bahrain’s Health System". The findings of this report are based on 102 interviews, the examination of medical records and radiographic images, and site visits by PHR investigators in April 2012.


April 23rd 2012 Healthcare in danger symposium at BMA House, London


IHPI organisers asked three questions at this symposium:

1. "The proliferation of arms, most originating from the permanent members of the UN Security Council, is without doubt adding to the ferocity and inhumanity of existing conflicts and their effects on defenceless citizens; damaging their health and healthcare. Should we not be targeting the unethical trade in arms and inputting to the Arms Control Treaty under discussion at this time."

2. "Given that in every recent conflict the Geneva Conventions have been blatently disregarded with inpunity, isn't it time to discuss the option of establishing and implementing an international protection system which has the mandate, authority and power to protect the health and healthcare of defenceless citizens who are being deliberatly targetted and attacked?  And if so what form should such an international protection system take?"

3. "Surely respect for the sovereignty of States has to be based on the responsibility of the behaviour of those in power".


13 April 2012  Grossly inadequate healthcare for 350,000 people in the Nuba mountains of Sudan being attacked by Government forces 

Film on Channel 4

Channel 4 have once again revealed another set of atrocities resulting from seemingly unstoppable armed conflicts, this time in Sudan affecting the Nuba people.  This film shows the resulting and terrible injuries suffered by women and children following air attacks on civilians.  It shows the almost non-existent health facilities available and the very small number of brave medical and nursing staff attempting to treat terrible injuries inflicted by the regime in Khartoum.

The film reveals yet again that the international community must wake up to the need to create an effective global protection system so that those war criminals who attack defenceless women and children must not be able to continue.  Until the world is free of people in power without a conscience, which may never be achieved, there must be  a strong and rapidly deployed international protection system.


Another film on the Nuba mountain attacks by the Enoughproject

John Prendergast from the Enough project states in this film: "This is a civilian protection crisis.  We talk all the time about the responsibility to protect human life.  Right here is a ground zero for that responsibility."


WHO resolution 23/1/2012

On 21st January 2012 The Executive Board of the World Health Organization passed a resolution addressing The World Health Organisation’s role in humanitarian crises that included a provision mandating WHO to leadership in collection and dissemination of data on attacks on health workers, health facilities, health transports and patients during armed conflict. The resolution will go to the World Health Assembly in May  2012 for its consideration. 

Full details of this resolution are described here.

The World Medical Association's response to this including IHPI's support is outlined here.


UCDP Uppsala Conflict Data Program

The Department of Peace and Conflict Research has recently updated its data on armed conflicts.  Maps showing the global locations of conflict can be reviewed as well as an encyclopedia of important data concerning every armed conflict which has been meticulously collected.


ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY IHPI Here is an article that has just been published in the medical journal "Early Human Development" on the effects of armed conflict on women and children.  The article is available on a free of charge basis.  Please click on the following and open the PDF within the link.



On November 29th and December 1st 2011: Two presentations at medical conferences were made relevant to IHPI

1. At an international medical conference on neonatal healthcare at Imperial College London the keynote "David Harvey" lecture on "Maternal and infant healthcare during armed conflict: what can doctors do?"

2. At a conference on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Emergencies at the Royal Society of Medicine Catastrophes & Conflict Forum in collaboration with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists a "Presentation on the latest developments with the IHPI".

Video regarding breaches of the access to healthcare for injuried civilians in Syria

Health Care Attacks

Targetting healthcare

A hard-hitting investigation into the final weeks of the quarter-century-long civil war between the government of Sri Lanka and the minority Tamil population featuring devastating video evidence of horrific war crimes is shown in a Channel 4 documentary.  The documentary shows how the Geneva Conventions were repeatedly violated by targetting  healthcare.

Rape and murder of infants and girls in Darfur

A Doctor reports how she was tortured and raped for speaking out about the armed conflict in Darfur.   A film about the award she has recently been given, reports on the rape of female infants and girls.

Reproductive health in emergencies

In honour of World Health Day on April 7, 2010, the RAISE Initiative announced the release of At Two Fronts: This is the story of reproductive health in emergencies. This three-minute video offers glimpses into life as it is lived in situations of conflict and natural disaster, and shows why  reproductive health care must be included in basic humanitarian response.

Breaking news

September 3rd 2011  Charity president says aid groups are misleading the public on Somalia.  Médecins Sans Frontières executive says charities must admit that much of the country can't be helped.  

"Fierce clan loyalties keep independent international assistance away from many communities, meaning that Somalis are trapped between various forces, depriving them of food and healthcare for political reasons".

August 10th 2011 Today The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) launches a publication describing a 4 year initiative entitled: "Health care in danger".  The ICRC initiative draws attention to attacks commonly made during armed conflict on health-care structures, personnel and ambulances and proposes measures to address this major problem.

More on Syria

Statement by MSF on the way in which The Syrian regime is conducting a campaign of unrelenting repression against people wounded in demonstrations and the medical workers trying to treat them

Charity president says aid groups are misleading the public on Somalia

Médecins Sans Frontières executive says charities must admit that much of the country can't be helped.

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