UN resolution to protect hospitals from attacks not working

World Today

It’s been one year since the first U.N. resolution promised to protect hospitals and medical workers from attacks. But the situation has worsened in conflicts from Afghanistan to Syria to Yemen.

Human rights agencies have documented a staggering amount of attacks on medics in the past year.

And they’re calling on the Security Council to turn words into action.

CGTN’s Liling Tan reports.

UN resolution to protect hospitals from attacks not working

It's been one year since the first U.N. resolution promised to protect hospitals and medical workers from attacks. But the situation has worsened in conflicts from Afghanistan to Syria to Yemen. Human rights agencies have documented a staggering amount of attacks on medics in the past year. And they're calling on the Security Council to turn words into action. CGTN's Liling Tan reports.

In April 2016, a clinic in Aleppo, Syria was bombed, just two days after another airstrike at a nearby hospital killed one of the last pediatricians in the area.

On the back of international outcry, the U.N. Security Council last year adopted the first-ever resolution to strengthen protection for medical workers in war zones. But a year on even the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres admitted that little has changed on the ground.

“Attacks against medical workers and medical facilities continue. No one is spared. According to the World Health Organization, attacks on medical care including hospitals, doctors, ambulances, and on the wounded and the sick took place in at least 20 countries affected by conflict in 2016,” Guterres said.

The U.N. Chief said that within months of the resolution, a hospital in Yemen was bombed. And the number of such attacks in Afghanistan in 2016 has doubled from the year before.

Medical and human rights groups say the problem is that it’s hard to collect and verify data, and many of these attacks go un-investigated and therefore, un-prosecuted. The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition reported that health workers and facilities were attacked with impunity in 23 countries in 2016, with not enough action from the UN Security Council and member states.

In Syria, Physicians for Human Rights managed to verify over 450 attacks on more than 300 facilities since the war began in 2011, with more than 800 health professionals killed. And when large hospitals are destroyed, it has an extensive trickle-down effect

“Anytime one of those facilities is taken completely out of commission by a bomb or by the killing of its health staff, that many people are denied access to fundamental healthcare to the delivery of babies, to prenatal care, to vaccination programs, to emergency surgery, to the treatment in the case of wars of the sick and the wounded, and it’s a devastating situation,” Susannah Sirkin, director of International Policy, at Physicians for Human Rights said.

Last year, 108 health facilities in Syria were hit, and 91 medical workers died.

“These are war crimes. These are violations of the responsibility of governments and warring factions to protect health facilities, health professionals and to make sure that the sick and the wounded are not denied access to care,” Sirkin said.

Medical NGOs and rights groups say more robust and standardized data collection methods are needed, as well thorough investigations and a commitment to prosecute those responsible.