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04.04.2024

World Health Day: Health Workers are Under Attack Worldwide

Ahead of World Health Day on April 7th, Project HOPE renews its call for the protection of health workers and health facilities during conflict. Last year, there were nearly 2,000 attacks on health facilities and health workers, a record since the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition began its reporting a decade ago. This year, hundreds of health workers have already been killed – from Gaza to Ukraine – including Project HOPE’s late colleague, Mohammed Hamed Mansour Madi. Mohammed was a nurse at Project HOPE’s health clinic in Gaza and was killed in his family home in March 2024 alongside his relatives.  

Project HOPE is calling on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to uphold Resolution 2286, passed in 2016 as the first-ever UNSC resolution addressing attacks on health services during armed conflicts.

All United Nations member states must utilize their influence to advocate for and demand the protection of health workers in conflict-affected areas by forbidding the provision of arms to perpetrators of attacks on health care, assisting prosecutions at the International Criminal Court for attacks on health care, modeling good practices to protect health care through military doctrine and training, and changing laws that criminalize the provision of health assistance to alleged terrorists.

Jed Meline, Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:
“Health workers are the backbone of any community. During war, they are not only a lifeline but a symbol of hope during times of distress. Without the dedication of health workers in Gaza, Ukraine, or Sudan, the civilian death tolls would be exponentially higher. My colleagues working in conflict-affected areas are terrified for their lives every day yet continue to show up at health clinics and hospitals to provide lifesaving care to their community. Their bravery and resilience should never go unnoticed.

As we commemorate World Health Day this year, we cannot forget about the countless health workers that we have lost to senseless violence. Disregard for health workers, civilians, and health facilities during conflict cannot become the norm. The international community must uphold international humanitarian law which calls for the protection of health workers and facilities from attacks. World leaders must wield their full influence to protect health workers in their own states but also hold other states and armed groups accountable when they disregard the protection of health care during conflict.” 

Dr. Maksym, Surgeon and Program Coordinator at Project HOPE in Kherson, Ukraine, said:
“For over two years, in the shadow of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, our medical staff have worked tirelessly on the front lines, providing essential medical care in the most dangerous of circumstances. With our ambulances and mobile medical units frequently damaged by shelling, and critical health facilities under constant threat, we are acutely aware of our vulnerability.  

During a visit to the regional hospital in Kherson, the team came under artillery fire. Fortunately, we escaped, but in the past year, four health workers have been killed in this hospital alone due to attacks. Yet, the rest of the medical workers continue to do their jobs and provide care no matter what.   

If they continue to target our health workers, we’re going to see more people dying from things that could have been prevented.”
 

Dr. Nour, Physician with Project HOPE in Rafah, Gaza, said:
“I no longer worry about my own safety. Death feels inevitable here. The mental health of health workers in Gaza is impossible to describe. We are exhausted, stressed, and constantly traumatized. 

All I am focused on is providing care to as many people as possible in Gaza. Last year, we hoped to open a neonatal clinic in Rafah until it was damaged during an airstrike on a nearby mosque. Health facilities are constantly under attack. We as health workers have no protection.” 

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