World

Protection of Health Care in Armed and Civil Conflict

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During recent uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, and Libya, security forces obstructed access to health facilities; harassed, arrested, and prosecuted medical personnel; and even assaulted patients within hospitals. In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where drug-related violence has escalated over the past three years, criminal organizations have killed and abducted health workers and interfered with patient care inside hospitals. As a result of the insecurity, doctors and nurses have fled, and 60 percent of the city’s clinics have closed, jeopardizing the health of individuals in a city of 1.5 million people. In some areas of the city there are no clinics left at all, and night and weekend services have been severely compromised.

Assaults like these have long been part of the landscape of armed and civil conflict. They jeopardize the lives and well-being not only of those directly attacked but of others who may never be able to access the health care they need. Yet, for decades, a paucity of regular reporting on the frequency, dynamics, and impacts of these assaults; lack of attention to strategies to prevent attacks; and absence of accountability mechanisms for those who perpetrate assaults has allowed these assaults to continue with impunity.

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