When a bomb is dropping, and the hospital is destroyed, who will treat the wounded and sick?
In times of armed conflict, healthcare is essential. Bombs, shelling, gunshot wounds – people need more medical attention during wars.
Yet healthcare facilities continue to suffer from attacks, and scores of health-care workers, who are risking their lives every day to provide lifesaving treatment, are being killed or injured while caring for sick and wounded men, women and children during armed conflicts. Countless are prevented from carrying out their duties and vast parts of the population are deprived of healthcare. Without them, the already immeasurable suffering becomes insurmountable.
Firm action is needed to stop the violence against health-care providers, the bombing of hospitals and the destruction of ambulances that prevent entire communities from receiving life-saving services. These acts of violence exacerbate the impact of war on people, bringing more deaths, more disabilities, higher disease rates and greater physical and mental suffering. The consequences of these acts will be felt for decades.
Violence against healthcare must end.
How do we help?
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is the body of rules governing armed conflict – in simple terms it is the law of war. These rules are found in a number of sources such as customary international law, case law, military documents and the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
One of the most important tenets of IHL is the protection of civilians and non-combatants – the wounded and sick, healthcare workers and volunteers, the civilian population and anyone not directly taking part in hostilities. It also provides protection for civilian objects like essential services and healthcare facilities and states that healthcare workers should be allowed free and safe access to treat the wounded and sick.
Despite the existence of these rules, every day we are witnessing violence against healthcare workers in conflict zones. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 600 incidences of violence have been reported against healthcare workers. This is unacceptable and inexcusable. The consequences of interruptions to healthcare services are long term and can impact on hard fought battles like reducing incidences of polio, increasing maternal health and reducing child mortality rates.
The Irish Red Cross and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement are working each day to promote and ensure respect for IHL in conflict zones and at a national and international level. The Irish Red Cross is a member of Health Care in Danger, an initiative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to make access to health care and its delivery safer in armed conflicts or other emergencies. This initiative calls for the respect and protection of health-care workers, facilities and vehicles and the implementation of a series of recommendations and practical measures to safeguard health-care services and their humanitarian mission.
For more information on the Healthcare in Danger Initiative, visit the website here.