Global violence against healthcare reached new heights in 2022
By Brian Ward
War and political unrest made 2022 the worst year on record for healthcare providers and facilities worldwide, according to the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition. The Coalition documented 1,989 incidents where:
- Healthcare facilities were deliberately looted, destroyed, or attacked with explosives
- Healthcare workers were threatened, kidnapped, or killed
- Patients were deliberately obstructed from healthcare access
The majority of incidents 2022 in came from Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion (782), and from Myanmar as a result of the military coup the year before (271). Incidents were highest in countries experiencing protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, South Sudan, Palestine, and Yemen. The coalition notes that its report likely undercounts the amount of violent incidents against healthcare facilities and workers.
“Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine have brought global attention to assaults on health care in war, highlighting pervasive violations of long-standing humanitarian norms. But in less visible conflicts and civil strife, the numbers of acts of violence and the stories behind them are equally grim: doctors imprisoned—and sometimes killed—in Myanmar and Iran for treating people in need of care; female health workers in Afghanistan harassed and sometimes beaten as they seek to provide health care for women and children; community health workers murdered in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere as they go door to door to immunize children against polio and other infectious diseases,” wrote Len Rubenstein, chair of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition in the report.
The report includes recommended actions for the International Criminal Court, United Nations Security Council and World Health Organization, among other bodies and ministries. Rubenstein called on the international community to respond to the violence by preventing attacks and holding perpetrators accountable.
"Never have calls for accountability for attacks on health care been as loud and sustained as now," Mr. Rubenstein wrote. "We have an opportunity to press for justice for the people of Ukraine in the face of these atrocities and to extend that demand to people everywhere. The time for accountability for these devastating assaults on health care throughout the world is now."