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Hundreds of healthcare workers killed or injured in conflict zones in 2018

Report reveals extent of casualties among health workers in the world’s most dangerous places

Report reveals extent of casualties among health workers in the world’s most dangerous places


A relative carries a memorial poster at the funeral of nurse Razan Al-Najar in June, 2018.
Ms Al-Najar was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in southern Gaza. She was 21. Picture: Alamy

More than 150 nurses and other healthcare workers died in conflict zones last year.

There were almost 1,000 violations of international law and United Nations resolutions designed to protect such workers in conflict zones in 2018. In total, 167 health workers were killed, and more than 710 injured.

Call to uphold international law

The figures are revealed in a report by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, made up of health organisations and charities including the International Council of Nurses (ICN).


Howard Catton.
Picture: Barney Newman

The ICN is now calling on all governments and other combatants to uphold the international law that is in place to protect health workers.

Chief executive Howard Catton said: ‘International leaders must now not just condemn these atrocities but take action to prevent them in the future and ensure health for all.’

In 2018, health workers were killed in 17 countries, with the highest number of fatalities in Afghanistan and Syria. 

Stories behind the statistics

The report lists incidents from 2018, including:

  • Death of a nurse in an attack on a hospital in Lebialem, Cameroon.
  • Rape and attempted rape of two nurses in a health facility by armed men in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Kidnap of a nurse working at a Unicef-supported health centre in Nigeria.
  • Killing of a nurse who was caring for civilians in the Donbass conflict zone in Ukraine.     
  • Deaths of three health workers in the Gaza Strip, 564 injured and two assaulted.

In total, were 973 attacks on healthcare health workers and facilities and transport in 2018. This compares to 701 attacks in 2017. The report suggests better reporting may account for the apparent increase.  

Mr Catton added: ‘Such attacks cause immediate suffering and death. But they also deprive populations of healthcare because facilities are closed, infrastructure is damaged, and non-governmental organisations and others have to withdraw staff.

‘They make it harder to tackle outbreaks of diseases, including the Ebola virus, they interfere with life-saving interventions and they impede vaccination programmes.'


Further reading 

Impunity Remains: Attacks on Health Care in 23 Countries in Conflict in 2018 


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