A disturbing year for violence against global healthcare

2022 was the worst year on record for acts of violence against healthcare facilities and personnel on the global level, according to a new report from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition

The coalition documented 1,989 incidents of violence against or obstruction of healthcare in conflicts and situations of political unrest in 32 countries and territories, a 45 percent increase compared to 2021 and the highest annual number of incidents that the coalition has recorded since it began tracking such violence. The coalition notes that the annual tally is likely an undercount. 

Violence included the deliberate targeting of health facilities with explosive weapons; destroying and looting hospitals and clinics; killing, kidnapping and threatening health workers; and the deliberate obstruction of patients' access to healthcare. 

Reported incidents in Ukraine (782) following Russia's invasion in February 2022 and in Myanmar (271) following the February 2021 military coup account for half of the violent incidents recorded throughout the year. 

In 2022, over 230 health workers were killed across 26 countries. This total includes 78 in Ukraine, 27 in Myanmar, 26 in Afghanistan, 11 in Sudan, and 10 each in the DRC, South Sudan, and Syria. Separately, at least 298 health workers were kidnapped or taken as prisoners of war in 20 countries. 

The report includes recommended actions for the International Criminal Court, United Nations Security Council and World Health Organization, among other bodies and ministries. Len Rubenstein, chair of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, notes that the war in Ukraine could "prove an inflection point" for the international community to prevent attacks and hold 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." 

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