Health Care in Danger campaign: Stop violence against medical personnel and facilities in Iraq

Organized jointly by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment and the International Committee of the Red Cross

Baghdad (ICRC) – A nationwide public awareness campaign entitled Health Care in Danger has been launched on 12 November during a ceremony at the Ministry of Health in Baghdad, and will last for 10 days until 21 November. The campaign draws attention to the issue of violence against medical personnel and facilities in Iraq and its negative impact on the delivery of health care. Its objective is to raise awareness on the right of medical personnel to be protected and perform their life-saving work in a safe environment.

It is organized jointly by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with the support of a wide range of partners including the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, as part of the wider ICRC global Health Care in Danger (HCiD) initiative aimed at addressing the issue of violence against patients, health workers, health facilities and vehicles, and ensuring safe access to, and impartial delivery of health care during armed conflict and other emergencies.

Statistics tell us that the medical profession is the most exposed to violence among all professions, and that local staff are most at risk. In Iraq, threats affecting health workers and services go beyond violence directly linked to armed conflict. Other types of violence are prevalent, such as reprisals against health professionals in the form of verbal or physical abuse, threats, kidnapping or even killing. Afraid for their safety, many of them have left the country. According to a survey conducted by the Health and Environment Volunteer Team, in Baghdad 70% of health personnel have expressed the wish to emigrate for this reason, while 98% responded that the number of health professionals leaving the country would decrease if a secure working environment could be guaranteed.

“Because health care professionals by the very nature of their job deal with situations of life and death, situations where emotions run high, they are very frequently exposed to adverse reaction by patients, their families, the communities and other people that accompany them to the health facilities, including weapon bearers”, said Katharina Ritz, head of delegation of the ICRC in Iraq. “At the end of the day, the first victims are the sick and wounded as such attacks reduce the chances of delivery of life-saving health care for millions of Iraqis.” The campaign seeks to sensitize Iraqi society to such an issue and bring about behavioural change among the public and policy-makers. It relies on a wide range of tools, such as TV spots, an interactive social media campaign, information sessions and bulk SMS messages.