Despite firm standards rooted in the Geneva Conventions to protect health facilities, health workers, and the patients served during armed conflict, and to enable health professionals to act consistently with their ethical obligations, assaults on and interference with health functions are all too common in war. Aside from the human toll they take, these attacks often compromise the ability to deliver care to populations in great need, impede efforts to reconstruct health systems after war, and lead to the flight of health workers whose presence in a time of great social stress is essential.
The international community has taken few steps to provide guidance to promote compliance with the law, or to assess and report on violations in a uniform and comprehensive manner. Sound methodologies for data collection about these assaults have not been developed. The lack of systematic reporting and documentation of these violations contributes to continued disregard for an established and internationally recognized legal framework of protection. Mechanisms to encourage compliance with these international norms are needed as a first step in preserving critical health services in conflict settings. Read more »