A Matter of Life and Death: Tackling Violence against Health Care in Pakistan, Peru and El Salvador - Selected Experiences

from International Committee of the Red Cross
Published on 30 Nov 2017 View Original


In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, 130 doctors were killed and 150 kidnapped between 2012 and 2014, according to major national newspaper The News.

In El Salvador, gang violence and crime are rife and homicide rates are among the highest in the world. According to the authorities, 1,776 people were killed in the first six months of 2017. This number is actually an improvement for the same period in 2016 (3,060 reported homicides). Because of this violence, health workers cannot get to the communities who need them, leaving these people without proper medical care.

In Peru’s Apurímac-Ene and Mantaro Valley, access to and the safe delivery of health care are particularly challenging. The valley is a truly remote area, characterized by inadequate infrastructure and drug trafficking. Health workers here struggle with the poor working conditions; they report threats, denial of access to patients, kidnappings, occupations of health centres and the theft of medicines as daily occurrences.

These examples from Pakistan, El Salvador and Peru are not isolated. Every day, health-care providers are being attacked, patients discriminated against, ambulances held up at checkpoints, hospitals bombed, medical supplies looted and entire communities cut off from critical services around the world.

Between January 2012 and December 2014, the ICRC documented nearly 2,400 violent incidents against health care in 11 countries experiencing armed conflict or other violence. In over 90% of cases, local health-care providers were affected, seriously threatening the effectiveness and sustainability of national health-care systems. These numbers might well just be the tip of the iceberg