Attacks on health workers affect "millions": Red Cross

10th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Large numbers of people die in conflicts not only because they are the victims of attacks, but because they are prevented from getting proper health care, the Red Cross said Wednesday.

A study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, conducted in 16 countries, found that "millions" of lives could be spared if attacks on healthcare workers and facilities did not occur.

"The most shocking finding is that people die in large numbers not because they are direct victims of a roadside bomb or a shooting," Robin Coupland, who led the study and worked as a war surgeon for seven years, told reporters.

"They die because the ambulance does not get there in time, because health-care personnel are prevented from doing their work, because hospitals are themselves targets of attacks or simply because the environment is too dangerous for effective health care to be delivered," he explained.

Yves Daccord, the ICRC director-general, said that "violence that prevents the delivery of health care is currently one of the most urgent yet overlooked humanitarian tragedies."

"The human cost is staggering: civilians and fighters often die from their injuries simply because they are prevented from receiving timely medical assistance," he said.

As examples, Daccord cited "hospitals in Sri Lanka and Somalia that have been shelled, ambulances in Libya shot at, paramedics in Colombia killed, and wounded people in Afghanistan forced to languish for hours in vehicles held up in checkpoint queues."

"The issue has been staring us in the face for years. It must end," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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