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Stopping attacks on health care

Attacks on Health Care initiative: Prevent. Protect. Provide.

Health care is under attack. In 2019 alone, over 1000 confirmed attacks on health care took place in emergency-affected countries and fragile settings. These attacks deprive people of urgently needed care, endanger health care providers, and undermine health systems.

The Attacks on Health Care initiative aims to ensure that health workers everywhere are able to provide health care in a safe and protected environment without disruption from acts of violence. The initiative has three main pillars of work including the systematic collection of evidence of attacks, advocacy for the end of such attacks, and the promotion of good practices for protecting health care from attacks. 

Defining attacks on health care

WHO defines an attack on health care as any act of verbal or physical violence or obstruction or threat of violence that interferes with the availability, access and delivery of curative and/or preventive health services during emergencies. Types of attacks vary across contexts and can range from violence with heavy weapons to psychosocial threats and intimidation.

Evidence of attacks

Launched in December 2017, the SSA is the main mechanism for collecting primary source data of attacks on health care in countries. Its methodology allows the verification of incidents of attacks and provides evidence based on a level of certainty for each incident. The resulting information is publicly available through our  online platform.

1009

incidents

of attacks on health care in 2019

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199

deaths of health care workers and patients in 2019

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628

injured health care workers and patients in 2019

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News from countries

WHO humanitarian supplies in Libya intercepted and diverted
13 August 2020 – On 6 August 2020, militia near the town of Al Zawya (western Libya) intercepted a truck on its way to Benghazi and Tobruk to deliver WHO humanitarian supplies.

WHO Director-General praises bravery of health workers during visit to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo following fatal attacks on Ebola responders
1 December 2019 – World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today visited health workers affected by recent armed attacks on Ebola response staff that killed four outbreak responders and injured seven others in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Dead and injured following attacks on Ebola responders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
28 November 2019 – Two attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have killed 4 workers responding to the Ebola outbreak and injured 5 others.

The Ministry of Health and the United Nations condemn attack on health worker supporting the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
3 November 2019 – The violence caused the death of an Ebola response community health worker and left his spouse critically injured with multiple wounds.

WHO statement on attacks against health care in north-west Syria
2 September 2019 – WHO is gravely concerned about reported attacks on 7 health care facilities in the north west of Syria from 28 to 30 August 2019. 

Statement by the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari
7 June 2019 – Incursions into hospitals in Khartoum have resulted in emergency services being shut down, the unwarranted transfer of patients, injuries to five medical staff and patients, and threats to others.

Publications

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Attacks on health care initiative 2019–2022

In the first three quarters of 2018, the Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA) documented 134 attacks on health care in Syrian Arab Republic,...

Health care is under attack. The sanctity of health care, the right to health, and International Humanitarian Law are threatened. Such attacks deprive...