11 August 2011
Around the world, millions more wounded and ill people could be saved if their access to healthcare weren’t impeded by violence.
This is the finding of a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), launched on 10 August as part of their new ‘Heathcare in danger: It’s a matter of life and death’ campaign.
"Violence against healthcare facilities and personnel must end,” said Yves Daccord, the director-general of the ICRC. “The human cost is staggering; civilians and fighters often die from their injuries simply because they are prevented from receiving timely medical assistance."
Human stories of violence
The report tells the stories of people who lost their lives because they weren’t allowed access to the medical care they needed, or because the healthcare workers rushing to help them were attacked by combatants.
One story is of four young children in Gaza City, whom ambulance crews found crouching next to the corpses of their mothers four days after their house was shelled. Soldiers at a nearby checkpoint had refused to let the ambulance reach the wounded until it was too late – 12 people died, and the surviving children were too weak to stand.
Even though the soldiers ordered the ambulance to leave, the crews disobeyed and rescued the survivors.
Healthcare workers the targets of attack
Dr Robin Coupland, who led the research carried out in 16 countries across the globe, said: "The most shocking finding is that people die in large numbers not because they are direct victims of a roadside bomb or a shooting.
“They die because the ambulance does not get there in time, because healthcare personnel are prevented from doing their work, because hospitals are themselves targets of attacks or simply because the environment is too dangerous for effective healthcare to be delivered."
The ICRC's campaign will last four years. Find out more about the campaign.