For Immediate Release
On the anniversary of a UN Security Council resolution condemning attacks on health care in conflict, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict said today the all-out assault on health care is continuing unabated in conflicts around the world.
Both organizations said the problem is acute in Syria and Yemen, where hospitals, doctors, nurses, and clinics are regularly and systematically targeted and medical aid is routinely blocked, both actions being flagrant violations of international law and obvious breaches of Security Council Resolution 2286, which passed one year ago.
“In Syria, snipers and aircraft have placed medics, doctors, and nurses in their crosshairs, taking aim at the very people who are committed to alleviating suffering,” said PHR’s lead Syria researcher, Elise Baker.
PHR has documented 454 attacks on medical facilities across Syria since 2011, as well as the deaths of 796 medical personnel; PHR says more than 90 percent of the documented attacks were carried out by Syrian government forces and their Russian allies. PHR released a report earlier this year on the intentional, systemic blockade of humanitarian aid in Syria, which is also banned under international law and Resolution 2286. Such blockades have led to starvation and countless preventable deaths.
“To compound the immense suffering in Syria, the government is systematically blocking access to the most basic humanitarian and medical aid,” said PHR’s Baker. “These are war crimes, and on today’s anniversary, it’s troubling to see that such crimes continue with blatant disregard for international law and human life.”
In a report issued this spring, Watchlist documented a similarly grim series of 160 deadly attacks on hospitals and health professionals over the past two years in Yemen. More than half of the health facilities in assessed regions in Yemen are closed or just partially functioning.
“Attacks in Yemen are driving a humanitarian crisis that is having a devastating effect on all Yemenis, but particularly children,” said Christine Monaghan, research officer at Watchlist. “The country is on the verge of famine, children are wasting from malnutrition, and the very hospitals and clinics where they could get some form of relief are being bombed.”
In a joint presentation today at the Belgian mission to the United Nations in New York, Watchlist and PHR called on various bodies of the UN to gather data on attacks on health care, investigate such strikes, and ensure justice and accountability.
“Perpetrators obviously see attacks on hospitals and aid as an effective war strategy; as long as there is impunity for these crimes, they will continue,” said Watchlist’s Monaghan.
PHR and Watchlist are both member of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, which today released its annual report documenting attacks on health facilities, health workers, and patients, as well as interference with the provision of health care in 23 countries. All members of the coalition call for an immediate halt of these attacks, as well as a full accounting of such crimes.
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict is a New York-based global coalition that serves
to end violations against children in armed conflict and to guarantee their rights.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.