Attacks on Health Sites Occurring 'With Alarming Frequency'

Troy Brown, RN

May 24, 2017

Attacks on healthcare facilities, health workers, and ambulances have continued "with alarming frequency," through 2016 and into 2017, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2016, 302 attacks occurred across 20 countries. The attacks were directed at 207 healthcare facilities, 52 providers, 40 transport vehicles, and 3 patients. The attacks resulted in 372 deaths and 491 injuries.

"We witness with alarming frequency a lack of respect for the sanctity of health care and for international humanitarian law: patients are shot in their hospital beds; medical personnel are threatened, intimidated or attacked; vaccinators are shot; hospitals are bombed," according to WHO.

WHO collects data from open sources and organizes them according to type of attack and country. "While we recognize that we are not capturing all data, and that there is significant underreporting, this is the only existing consolidation of global data on individual attacks on healthcare in emergency contexts," WHO said in a news statement.

Most of the attacks were from bombing (74%), followed by shooting (7%), looting (6%), assault (5%), abduction (3%), arson (1%), threat (1%), and other (eg, obstruction, militarization) (4%).

The Syrian Arab Republic was the hardest hit, with 207 attacks, followed by Libya (20); Central African Republic (18); the West Bank and Gaza Strip (11); Democratic Republic of the Congo (9); Mali (6); South Sudan (6); Yemen (4); Ethiopia, Iraq, and Pakistan (3 each); Nepal, Nigeria, and Somalia (2 each); and Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Niger, Sudan, and Ukraine (1 each).

Already in Q1 2017, there have been 88 attacks, with 80 deaths and 81 injuries across 14 countries and territories. Those attacks have targeted 47 healthcare facilities, 20 transport vehicles, 19 health providers, and 2 patients. Most of the attacks (65%) have been bombings.

There were 256 attacks, with 434 deaths and 537 injuries, in 2015, and 338 attacks, with 525 deaths and 1024 injuries, in 2014.

"These attacks have direct consequences for health service delivery, depriving people of often urgently needed care," WHO said in the news statement.

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