International Council of Nurses calls for urgent action to eliminate nuclear weapons

ICN highlights the risks to humanity posed by nuclear weapons

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has called for urgent action to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons in a paper submitted to the United Nations (UN).

The ICN joined other healthcare organisations to highlight the humanitarian risks posed by nuclear weapons in evidence to a UN working group on multilateral nuclear disarmament.

Along with the World Medical Association, the World Federation of Public Health Associations and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the ICN said the medical and scientific evidence demands urgent action to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons ‘as the only course of action commensurate with the existential danger they pose’.

The jointly written paper argues that a meaningful medical and humanitarian response to aid nuclear conflict survivors would be impossible. 

It also says a nuclear war with existing arsenals could kill many more people in a few hours than were killed during all of the Second World War and adds that radioactive fallout in the environment can cause cancers and illnesses across generations.

ICN chief executive officer Frances Hughes said: ‘Inherent to nursing is respect for the life and dignity of people, thus nurses have a responsibility to work towards eliminating any threats to life and health.’

The UN working group is considering the legal measures required to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.

It is due to report to the UN’s general assembly later this year.