1,000 killed in health centers in 2014/15 -WHO

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Geneva  –  The World Health Organisation (WHO), said on Thursday that more than 1,000 people were killed in attacks on health centres worldwide over the past two years, with over 40 per cent of them in Syria

WHO, in its first report in Geneva on Thursday, said it documented 594 attacks resulting in 959 deaths and 1,561 injuries in 19 countries with emergencies between January 2014 and December 2015.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, Executive Director of WHO’s Emergency Programme, told a news conference that Syria had the most attacks on hospitals, ambulances, patients and medical workers, accounting for 352 deaths.

He said it was followed by the Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Iraq, Pakistan and Libya.

Aylward said going by the report, 62 per cent of all attacks were deemed intentional and many led to disruption of public health services.

“This is not an isolated issue, it is not limited to war zones, it is not accidental and majority of these are intentional.

“It is getting more and more difficult to deploy people into these places, to keep them safe while there and more difficult to ensure they survive, let alone recover in crises”, he said.
Aylward added, “it is not stopping.’’

“Two days ago, a suicide bomber blew himself up and took 40 people with him at least in one of the main hospitals in Latakia (Syria).

Aylward said the casualty figures included 42 killed and 37 wounded in a U.S. air strike on a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October.

He told the WHO event that a U.S. military report last month said the incident did not amount to a war crime, but was caused by human error, equipment failure and other factors.

“Last year, 75 hospitals managed or supported by MSF were bombed.

“From Yemen to Syria, from Central African Republic to Niger, health facilities are looted, burnt and bombed. Patients are slaughtered in their beds’’, he said.

Rick Brennan, WHO Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response, said health care workers are abducted, assaulted or killed.

He said 53 per cent of the attacks were perpetrated by states, 30 by armed groups and 17 per cent remain unknown.

Brennan said one of the most important rules of war is that you don’t attack health care facilities, health care providers, the sick, the disabled.

“So, these attacks do represent gross violations of international humanitarian law.

Brennan said the violations of the law, if proven, can be considered war crimes and the perpetrators can be taken to the International Criminal Court. (Xinhua/NAN)