Protection of health workers, patients and facilities in times of violence

March 30, 2014

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In November 2013, the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health brought together some 20 experts on the issue of attacks on health workers and health care. They convened in Bellagio, Italy to take stock of the current situation and identify improvements. A short report of this meeting is now available online.

Conference participants were called upon to identify key actions by which the international community, including states, health ministries, UN agencies, NGOs and professional health organizations could reverse the erosion of norms for the respect for and protection of health care in times of armed conflict and other situations of violence. They also identified potential areas for future research, in order to ensure action is grounded in a strong evidence base. This report offers a review of the discussions that took place during the course of the 3-day conference that resulted in a Call for Action, including a global research agenda.

Call for Action

In their Call for Action, which can be found in the report, the participants not only address States, armed groups and UN bodies to uphold rights, but also urge health professional organizations at the national and global level to:

“… promote universally accepted standards of professional conduct among health workers in armed conflict and internal disturbances, including training health workers on human rights and medical ethics and advocating for protection and security of health services and health workers”.

Call for papers

The organizer, the Centre for Public Health and Human Rights, is one of the leading organizations in the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, of which IFHHRO is also a member. Two staff members (Leonard Rubenstein and Katherine Footer) are guest editors of the journal World Health & Population, which is currently seeking manuscripts for a theme issue on the nature and impacts of attacks on health workers in conflict zones. Together with co-editor Joseph Amon of Human Rights Watch, they will select papers on issues such as:

  • Studies exploring the vulnerabilities of healthcare in situations of armed conflict or civil unrest
  • Studies on the short, intermediate and long term impacts of violence on health systems
  • Strategies for supporting the safety and well-being of civilian health and human resources in  situations of armed conflict or civil unrest
  • Policies and actions at the national, regional and global level that can promote the respect and protection of health care.

Download the report Protection of Health Workers, Patients and Facilities in Times of Violence (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2014)

Download the call for papers issued by World Health & Population