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Concern Arising From Alarming Number Attacks on Health Personnel. 27.05.16
Press Release

INMO Shares International Council Of Nurses (ICN) Concern Arising From Alarming Number Of Attacks To Healthcare Personnel And Facilites

New Report shows the effect of conflict on Health

A new report by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition was released this week showing the extent to which health workers, patients, health facilities and transport have been subjected to attacks in 2015 to early 2016.  The Report is entitled No Protection, No Respect and can be accessed on:  www.safeguardinghealth.org/report2016.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), through its long standing membership of the International Council of Nurses, was a founding member of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition and firmly believes that violence in the health workplace threatens the delivery of effective patient services and, therefore, patient safety.  If quality care is to be provided, nursing/midwifery personnel must be ensured a safe work environment and respectful treatment.

In addition the ICN Code of Ethics, to which the INMO fully endorses, states that “nursing care is respectful of, and unrestricted by, considerations of age, colour, creed, culture, disability or illness, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, politics, race or social status.”  

The Report also identifies the aftereffects of attacks including loss or lack of access to healthcare, the flight of health workers, people deprived of healthcare and increased mortality and morbidity risks.

In specific terms the report, compiled by a coalition of more than 30 non-governmental organisations, found;

Evidence of deliberate or indiscriminate strikes on healthcare which have killed medical workers and patients, decimated medical infrastructure and robbed countless civilians  of vital medical care in 19 countries around the world;

Found evidence that hospitals and ambulances were specifically targeted in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, Syria and Thailand;

Reports on the murder and kidnapping of polio vaccination teams in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia;
Describes the burning and looting of hospitals and clinics as well as brutal attacks on nursing/medical staff, and patients, in facilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen; and

Found that the passage of ambulances, medical supplies, or patients seeking care were routinely restricted in Central African Republic, Mali, the occupied Palestinian territories, Syria, South Sudan, Turkey and Ukraine.

Among its recommendations the coalition report calls on the United Nations Secretary General and the World Health Organisation to carefully document and report attacks on healthcare workers and facilities.  The coalition report also recommends that the UN Security Council refers such crimes to the International Criminal Court, or other tribunals, if States fail to fulfil their obligation to halt strikes on healthcare personnel and infrastructure.

It should be noted that on the 3rd May the Security Council, of the United Nations, condemned attacks on health facilities and health workers, reiterating the fundamental principle of the laws of war that health facilities and medical workers must be protected from attack in armed conflict.  It called on countries to take steps to prevent such attacks, investigate them when they happen and prosecute perpetrators.

Speaking at the launch of the report Dr Frances Hughes, ICN’s Chief Executive Officer said;

“In alignment with the Geneva Convention in International Humanitarian Law it is essential that data on attacks against healthcare personnel and facilities is collected so that those responsible are held accountable and ways to avoid attacks or alleviate their consequences are found.  We welcome this report, from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, which highlights the alarming number attacks and the devastating consequences to the health of populations.”

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition is a group of international non-governmental organisations working to protect health workers, services and infrastructure.  The coalition has three main objectives;

Raise awareness of the problems of attacks on health workers, facilities, transport systems and clients;

Work with national and global organisations to strengthen the documentation of such attacks and increase accountability for violators; and

Empower local groups to play a safe, active role in documenting attacks and demanding accountability at national and international levels

INMO General Secretary Liam Doran, commenting on the report, said;

“A basic tenant of all human morality, regardless of circumstance, is that healthcare facilities must be exempt from attack.  Healthcare professionals, including nurses and midwives, must follow their professional code and provide assistance to all persons presenting regardless of their role in any situation.  This report clearly highlights the increasing incidents of blatant disregard for this essential human right.  We welcome the work of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict in Coalition in highlighting, recording and working to bring to account those who would disregard this cornerstone of humanity.”

Note for Editors
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

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