One year after the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2286, attacks on health workers, services, and infrastructure continue with impunity. In its report entitled Impunity Must End, the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition documents attacks on health care in 23 countries. Released on the first anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2286, the report calls on the Security Council and the international community to take concrete steps toward preventing attacks and ending impunity. So far, the Security Council has failed to take these actions.
“Our findings cry out for a level of commitment and follow-through by the international community and individual governments that has been absent since the passage of Security Council Resolution 2286 a year ago,” said Leonard S. Rubenstein, director of the Program on Human Rights, Health and Conflict at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and chair of the coalition.
In Syria, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) reported 108 attacks on hospitals and other health facilities throughout 2016, most by the Syrian government and Russian forces. In Yemen, UNICEF verified 93 attacks on hospitals from March 2015 to December 2016.
The numbers noted in the report may greatly understate the extent and severity of attacks, the report says, because documentation of attacks remains spotty.
The report reveals that while bombing and shelling of health facilities is the most obvious and devastating form of attack, violence against health care takes many forms.
In Egypt, Defenders for Medical Impartiality (DMI) verified at least six attacks on doctors and medical staff in public hospitals carried out by police. In the occupied Palestinian territories, the Palestine Red Crescent Society reported 416 instances of violence or interference with its ambulances by Israeli forces and Israeli settlers, injuring 162 emergency medical technicians and volunteers, damaging 108 ambulances, and denying access to care in 146 cases. In Iraq, ISIS forces took over multiple health facilities, either to use for military installations or to treat their own wounded fighters, while expelling civilian patients. In Turkey, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey documented 76 civilian deaths due to obstacles in accessing medical treatment between August 2015 and April 2016.
The report also shows that accountability for committing these attacks remains inadequate or non-existent.
This fourth global report from the coalition relies on field investigations by coalition members as well as secondary data from UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other sources. It can be accessed at: safeguardinghealth.org/report2017
The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition consists of more than 30 organizations working to protect health workers and services threatened by war or civil unrest. The coalition raises awareness of global attacks on health and presses governments and United Nations agencies for greater global action to protect the security of health care.