The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC) has identified 806 reported incidents of violence against or obstruction of health care in 43 countries and territories experiencing conflict in 2020.
These figures (806) represent a decline compared to the overall number of reports identified by the SHCC in 2019, which recorded 1,203 incidents of violence against or obstruction of health care in 20 countries and territories. However, they represent a 25% increase in the number of health workers who were killed and kidnapped in 2020 (185 killed and 117 kidnapped, compared to 151 killed and 90 kidnapped in 2019) and a 65% decrease in the reported number of health workers injured (175 in 2020 compared to 502 injured in 2019).
In 2020, 65 health workers were arrested, 152 threatened, 175 injured, 38 assaulted and three subjected to sexual violence in 43 countries and territories experiencing conflict in 2020. During the year, 47 health facilities were destroyed and 128 damaged, while 51 health transports were destroyed or damaged and 26 stolen or hijacked. Thirty-five airstrikes and 94 incidents of shelling and use of surface-launched missiles were recorded as having adversely affected health care.
The documented incidents reported here represent an underestimate of the overall number of attacks on health care that occurred over the past year, since it is likely that a large number of incidents went unreported or unconfirmed.
The COVID-19 pandemic marked the year 2020, and geopolitical developments related to the pandemic influenced the changes in the nature and patterns of reported threats to and violence against health care. Parties to conflict did not widely respect the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire during the pandemic.
Across the Sahel region, various insurgent groups took advantage of the respective governments’ preoccupation with the pandemic and increased their attacks on civilians. The conflicts in Libya,
Syria and Yemen continued. At the same time, measures to curtail the spread of the pandemic limited the number of organized mass demonstrations in various countries. In this environment there was an apparent decrease in the less severe incidents often associated with large-scale political demonstrations and an increase in more severe events associated with conflict.