WHO calls for protection of health workers in conflicts and disasters

Categories: Policy.

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said: “Doctors, nurses and other health workers must be allowed to carry out their life-saving humanitarian work free of threat of violence and insecurity,” drawing attention to attacks on healthcare workers, hospitals, clinics and ambulances in a number of countries, including Syria, Gaza, Central African Republic, Iraq and South Sudan, and the threats and harassment of health workers dealing with the recent Ebola outbreak.

Last month Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that, since armed conflict erupted in South Sudan in December, at least 58 people have been killed on hospital grounds, and hospitals were ransacked or burnt on at least six occasions.

And in Syria, it is estimated that since the start of the war 200,000 Syrians have died from chronic illnesses due to lack of access to treatment and medicines.

Dr Richard Brennan, Director of WHO’s Department of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response, commented: “Assaults on health workers and facilities seriously affect access to healthcare, depriving patients of treatment and interrupting measures to prevent and control contagious diseases. WHO has a specific mandate to protect the human right to health, especially for people affected by humanitarian emergencies.”

Last year ehospice spoke to Loubna Batlouni and Mohammad Saab, from the Balsam Centre in Lebanon, about their experiences of providing palliative care to patients in a country where the political situation is very unstable and armed conflicts can happen at any time of the day.

On the heels of WHO’s call comes an article from Joan Marston, CEO of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network, which focuses on how the palliative care community can help to ease the burden of war refugees with palliative care needs.