Prioritising the protection of health care during armed conflict


3 May 2016

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.


July 2015

Following the International Child Health group meeting in November 2010, two organisations have undertaken a considerable amount of effective work in efforts to protect healthcare in areas of armed conflict.  IHPI is a founder member of one of these: The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition. This coalition reports up-to-date news on progress and states the following as its main objectives: 

"Working to strengthen mechanisms opposing violence, increase evidence of attacks, hold violators accountable, and develop strategies for protection through: 
• Commitments by governments and non-state actors not to attack or obstruct health care services and to respect ethical responsibilities of health workers to provide care to all in need irrespective of the patient’s affiliation 

• Enhanced visibility and understanding of the nature and extent of attacks on health services and their impact on access to services by people in need 

• Systematic documentation and reporting of violations as a foundation for response 

• Vigorous domestic and international action to assure accountability for violators 

• Practical strategies for the prevention of violence against health workers, facilities, patients, and ambulances 

• Repeal of laws that render the provision of impartial care to be a crime."


The second organisation making progress on this worsening problem is the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement who have established The Health Care in Danger Project.

"This initiative is aiming to improve security and delivery of impartial and efficient health care in armed conflict and other emergencies".
"Even when serious and widespread, the humanitarian situation in the field can be largely improved if the authorities, weapon bearers, health providers and humanitarians put in place practical solutions. These could include measures that guarantee for instance respect for the law, the physical protection of medical facilities, fast-tracking ambulances at checkpoints or systematic security training for first-aid workers". 


Older news

June 6th 2012

This year, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her diamond jubilee, to mark sixty years as Monarch and Head of the Commonwealth. The celebrations will include a private luncheon in London on the 6th of June with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and The President of Sri Lanka, a man against whom the UN have found credible allegations of responsibility for atrocities during the Sri Lankan conflict which included the targeting of emergency healthcare facilities.

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

A one day conference organised by the ICRC, British Red Cross, World Medical Association and British Medical Association was held to make the case for a campaign to protect healthcare in zones of armed conflict. An outline of the symposium  describes in detail the aims of this meeting.  A resolution from the Red Cross and Red Crescent provided more details on the campaign.

June 12th 2011

On June 12th 2011  the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1998, adding recurrent attacks on schools and hospitals to the violations that may subject an entity to the listing and “naming and shaming” requirements of the mechanisms to protect children in armed conflict.   Under the resolution, the procedure may be triggered not only by recurrent attacks against facilities but by recurrent attacks or threats against “protected persons,” which under international humanitarian law include civilians not taking part in hostilities and medical personnel.    Given the broad interpretation the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict has given to “hospitals,” we can expect that many health facilities will be covered. The operative language of the resolution is as follows:

 3. Recalls paragraph 16 of its resolution 1379 (2001) and requests the Secretary-General to also include in the annexes to his reports on children and armed conflict those parties to armed conflict that engage, in contravention of applicable international law; (a) in recurrent attacks on schools and/or hospitals (b) in recurrent attacks or threats of attacks against protected persons in relation to schools and/or hospitals in situations of armed conflict, bearing in mind all other violations and abuses committed
against children, and notes that the present paragraph will apply to situations in accordance
with the conditions set out in paragraph 16 of its resolution 1379 (2001)

The text of the resolution is at http://www.un.org/children/conflict/_documents/CAACRES1998.pdf

This resolution was championed by Professor Leonard Rubenstein, Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the IHPI was a signatory to the letter requesting the UNSC to adopt the resolution.

18th July 2011 Human Rights Watch. Bahrain. Targets of Retribution Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities


August 10th 2011

 Physicians for Human Rights Releases Accounts of Violence in Syria. Violations of medical neutrality and attacks on civilians described by Syrian citizens

The Guardian.  Red Cross brands assaults on medics in conflict zones a 'humanitarian tragedy'.  Violence against medical personnel in areas of unrest costing millions of lives, according to ICRC report.

BBC.  Colombia: conflict zone where medical treatment is a rare luxury 

BBC Europe.  Red Cross: Rise in violence against medics in warzones

August 12th 2011

Professor Leonard Rubenstein's blog for the Global Health Council on health and conflict

Two news items October 13th 2011 from Somalia



27th October 2011  New report from Amnesty international regarding health workers in Syria being placed in an impossible situation-"forced to chose between treating wounded people and preserving their own safety."


12th November 2011.  Article by Rhona MacDonald in alertnet about IHPI and first notice of a meeting on 29th November 2011 to outline new developments in this initiative



December 2011 The New Internationalist. "The almighty influence of the arms trade"

A series of articles on the harmful effects of the arms trade, including those on healthcare are published here:

Why do governments routinely spend more on arms than on education and health?

The shadow world: corruption in the arms trade

January 6th 2012   3,000 feared dead in tribal ‘massacre’ in Sudan Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the main health-care provider for an estimated 160,000 people in Pibor, has suspended operations after the clashes forced them to evacuate staff from the hospital which was attacked.

January 6th 2012  British aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan  A statement from the ICRC said Mr Dale, a health programme manager, was on his way home from work in a clearly-marked ICRC vehicle when he was seized about 200m away from an ICRC residence.

January 4th 2012  The murder of two senior staff members in Mogadishu last week has led the international medical aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to reconsider whether it can continue working in the violence prone and famine affected country. On 29 December a disgruntled former employee entered the charity’s Somalia headquarters with a gun and opened fire, killing the country director immediately and mortally wounding a senior doctor.

Health Care Attacks

Recent Signups

    • Dr Jan Topley
    • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, UK.
    • Barbara Rylko-Bauer
      - Thank you for all your efforts in creating, promoting, and pushing for implementation of this very important resolution.
    • Barney Barnes
    • Elisabeth Norman
    • Belis Aladag, MD, MPH
    • Mary K. Anglin, PhD, MPH
    • Hodges Health Care Domains Framework
      - This resolution saddens me: that we should need it in the 21st century after millennia of human conflict. The resolution is an essential course of action that I will help to publicize. Resources by way of legal enforcement, financial and personnel as declared in the resolution to protect basic human rights and health care provision must be assured and enforced globally. As per the trend of pursuing those who commit crimes against humanity should be escalated as the means to record and furnish evidence also increases. This is imperative as a deterrent to those who supposedly 'lead' and those who invariably follow. In this sense 'education for all' is crucial to help prevent indoctrination (with an additional health dividend).
    • Dr Anne Kerr
    • Cecilia Guastadisegni of the Istituto Superiore di Sanita'
      - http://iss.it

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