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Joint letter to Jeremy Hunt urges government to show support for health workers and facilities being targeted as acts of war

27 February 2019

Sixteen Medical Royal Colleges and Associations have written a joint letter to the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, asking the government to signal its support for the Colombo Declaration.

The declaration, which seeks to tackle the issue of attacks on medical facilities in conflict zones, was ratified in 2016 at the Developing EM conference in Sri Lanka by conference delegates. The petition recorded their unanimous condemnation of past and ongoing attacks on health care facilities, with the aim of bringing the problem to the attention of the wider world.

The Colombo Declaration has now been endorsed by sixteen UK health organisations are now calling upon the government to show its support for health workers by raising the issue again in the United Nations and lobbying them to enforce UNSC Resolution 2286.

Resolution 2286 was passed by the UN Security Council in May 2016 and demands all warring parties fully comply with the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which seek to protect people who are not taking part in hostilities or are wounded or sick.

However, the resolution has not been enforced properly and in recent years there has been an increase in the number of attacks on medical workers and hospitals in war zones.

In the 2018 there were 388 attacks across 16 countries, a large percentage of which were direct bombing of hospitals or shooting of healthcare workers. This has become part of a multi-dimensional war strategy; using large scale violence to deprive people of access to health care.

The majority of these attacks on hospitals are perpetrated by Nation States in clear contravention of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Violating the conventions constitutes a war crime punishable under International Humanitarian Law.

President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Taj Hassan said: “It is sickening that health workers trying to heal the sick and injured in war zones are being targeted as part of war efforts. Patients and staff should never be collateral in militarised political disputes, and we call on the government to help these innocent bystanders of war by showing their support for the Colombo Declaration.”

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