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UN Should Name and Shame Countries Failing to Protect Doctors in War Zones: Aid Expert

Leonard Rubenstein, head of Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, said impartial investigations and reforming both military training and practice could improve safety for health workers

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Health workers
The ruins of a hospital in Idlib province in northern Syria are seen in this image provided by Doctors Without Borders Feb. 15, 2016. VOA
  • International law bounds all warring parties to respect and protect medical personnel, but the provision is largely disregarded
  • At least 80 people were killed in attacks on health facilities in 14 countries in the first three months of 2017, according to the World Health Organization
  • An expert Leonard Rubenstein said impartial investigations and reforming both military training and practice could improve safety for health workers

New Delhi, August 19, 2017: The United Nations should name and shame countries that fail to protect health workers in war zones and audit what steps they take to keep medics safe, Leonard Rubenstein- an aid expert- said on Thursday.

International law bounds all warring parties to respect and protect medical personnel, but the provision is largely disregarded, with hospital and medics often deliberately targeted in conflict areas, aid agencies say.

Last year, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an end to impunity for perpetrators, but little has been done to implement it, said Leonard Rubenstein, head of Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, a network of aid groups.

ALSO READ: Indian-American Doctors raise voice regarding Shortage of Physicians in US and Hate Crimes against the Community

“Since 2016, we have had complete international paralysis,” he told an event in London, blaming the stalemate on divisions between Russia and other members of the Security Council.

At least 80 people were killed in attacks on health facilities in 14 countries in the first three months of 2017, according to the World Health Organization.

More than half the attacks were in Syria.

Rubenstein said impartial investigations and reforming both military training and practice could improve safety for health workers — but nations had to be pushed into adopting them.

“The only way to get them to do it is to shame them,” he told a panel at the Overseas Development Institute via video link, ahead of World Humanitarian Day on Aug 19.

In order to do so, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights should issue annual reports highlighting what steps countries have taken to implement resolutions made the year before, Rubenstein said.

“It’s not the most powerful mechanism that we have — but it is the only one that we (have) really got at the moment, and I think that would go a long way to forcing the states to take the actions that they have committed to do,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Warns A Rise In The Number Of Measles Cases

They also warn the spread of falsehoods and misinformation.

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Measles, WHO
A health worker vaccinates a toddler against measles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns a spike in the number of measles cases globally is putting hard won progress toward the elimination of this highly contagious, deadly disease at risk.

Measles immunizations have saved more than 21 million lives globally since 2000. But, unveiling a new report, the World Health Organization says multiple outbreaks of this killer disease since 2016 have caused an estimated 110,000 deaths in all regions of the globe.

In addition, WHO’s director of immunization, vaccines and biologicals, Martin Friede, says there has been a very worrying jump of more than 30 percent in reported measles cases worldwide.

Measles, WHO
Two sick children wait for treatment after being admitTed to a hospital in Agats, Asmat District, after the government dispatched military and medical personnel to the remote region of Papua to combat malnutrition and measles, Indonesia. VOA

“We are seeing sustained measles transmission in countries that had previously not seen measles transmission for many years. So, the countries had eliminated measles, but it has now been re-established in the country. This is very worrying. This suggests that we are actually regressing in certain cases,” Friede said.

The report finds the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean region, and Europe have experienced the greatest surges in cases, with the western Pacific the only region where the number of cases has fallen.

But, it notes the biggest increases continue to be in areas with low immunization coverage where measles is endemic. For instance, the report finds a two-fold rise in cases of the disease in Africa.

Measles, WHO
A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Feb.26, 2015. VOA

Health officials attribute the growth of measles cases to a sense of complacency, especially in industrialized countries where the disease has not been seen for many years.

Also Read: Europe Suffers From A Severe Measles Outbreak

They also warn the spread of falsehoods and misinformation, such as the debunked link between measles vaccinations and autism, discourages many parents from immunizing their children against the disease. (VOA)