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Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition Addresses Attacks on Health Care in Ukraine and Other Territories

EMS responding to emergency

March 23, 2022

In an open letter released on March 23, 2022, organized by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, the head of the American Public Health Association, the International Council of Nurses, and the World Medical Association, urged Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), to take additional steps to increase pressure to stop attacks on health facilities, personnel, and transports, and the people they serve in Ukraine and in other countries and territories.

As health care is increasingly becoming a target in Ukraine with 100+ confirmed attacks, increased pressure on Russia and accountability is vital.

The Coalition outlined the following steps: issue a fact sheet and hold a special press briefing to explain to the international media--and therefore the world–the location and a detailed description of confirmed attacks on health in Ukraine; expand the WHO’s leadership on protection of health care; and address the current limitations of the surveillance system for attacks on health care.

Joseph Amon, PhD, MSPH, Director of the Office of Global Health and Clinical Professor in the Department of Community Health and Prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), helped found the Coalition and organize the letter which includes 20+ major professional health associations, non-governmental organizations, and fellow academic centers.

“The World Health Organization has strongly condemned the attacks by Russia on Ukrainian health centers and personnel. Our letter asks for the organization to go further, in order to counter misinformation and make clear that these attacks, which are war crimes, will have consequences," said Amon. "This is an important message to Russia, but also for those responsible for attacks in Syria, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and other countries that we are tracking."

Amon has worked with the Coalition since its creation in 2012 to promote the security of health workers and services threatened by war or civil unrest. The Coalition has been instrumental in raising the issue of protection of health workers in conflicts, releasing an annual report tracking attacks and analyzing trends. The Coalition has worked with Ministers of Health worldwide towards a resolution at the World Health Assembly and the establishment of a system of monitoring attacks at the World Health Organization and with the United Nations Security Council on a resolution mandating strengthened laws and policies protecting health workers and investigation and accountability for violations.

Read the open letter

In May, DSPH will hold a roundtable discussion with members of the Coalition on the role public health professionals can play during times of conflict. A formal announcement will be made in early April.