2023: An Alarming Increase in Violence Against Healthcare in Conflict Zones Reported by Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition

Bi-Monthly News Brief: Attacks on Health Care in Occupied Palestinian Territory, 18-25 May 2024

In 2023, the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition reported a staggering increase in incidents of violence against or obstruction of health care in conflict zones. This was a total of 2562 documented attacks, which is 500 more attacks than were reported in the previous year. These attacks included bombings, looting, occupations, raids, and vandalism of health facilities.

During the year, there was a significant impact on staffing levels as health workers were killed, kidnapped or arrested. Medical supplies and convoys were frequently looted and hijacked while patients faced obstacles in accessing necessary health care services. Health facilities were increasingly being repurposed for military use and the areas around these facilities became targets for bombings.

Monitoring trends over the years has shown that conflicts where violence against health care is prevalent often start with extreme levels of violence against the health system. This was evident in regions like Manipur state in India, Gaza Strip and Sudan in 2023 similar to patterns observed in recent years in countries like Myanmar and Ukraine.

State forces were responsible for nearly half of the reported incidents and explosive weapons use on health care facilities increased significantly across multiple conflict zones worldwide. Drones armed with explosives were also increasingly used to carry out attacks on health care facilities in various regions. These incidents not only endanger medical staff but also make it difficult for people to receive essential medical services during times of crisis.

It is crucial that governments take immediate action to protect healthcare workers and facilities from violence during conflicts. This includes providing adequate security measures, ensuring safe transportation routes for medical supplies and personnel, and working towards finding peaceful solutions to conflicts that may involve healthcare systems as collateral damage.

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition’s report serves as a stark reminder that even during times of war or conflict, healthcare services must remain available to those who need them most. The organization’s call for increased attention to this issue should be heeded by governments around the world so that we can work towards a future where everyone has access to quality healthcare regardless of their location or circumstances.

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