'Crisis' of health worker attacks

Attacks on healthcare workers in conflict zones are an " unacknowledged humanitarian crisis", experts have said.

11498808-5b43-11e3-b4cd-0a0c0223000020131203T000213
Attacks on healthcare workers in conflict zones, such as those working for the Red Cross and Red Crescent, are a 'humanitarian crisis', it is claimed

Attacks on healthcare workers in conflict zones are an " unacknowledged humanitarian crisis", experts have said.

Hundreds of thousands of people living in worn-torn countries are effected by attacks on medics, the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) said.

The comments come ahead of a meeting of leading medics and humanitarian organisations which aims to establish practical ways to protect healthcare workers in conflict.

The meeting, which is hosted by the RSM, t he International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the British Red Cross, hopes to examine measures to protect health workers so they can safely deliver care in war zones.

Experts will share best practice on making hospitals and ambulances safe so they can deliver life-saving services amid conflict.

They will also discuss better ways of quantifying the problem of attacks on healthcare at the meeting, which will be held in London tomorrow.

" Attacks on healthcare are an unacknowledged humanitarian crisis, which affects hundreds of thousands each year in the world's conflict zones because doctors have fled, hospitals have been damaged or ambulances have been targeted by hostile fire," an RSM spokeswoman said.

" At least 921 violent incidents against healthcare personnel, infrastructure and wounded and sick people occurred in 2012 in 22 countries, according to a data gathering exercise conducted by the ICRC. However, the incidents, which included threats, killings and kidnappings, represented just the tip of an iceberg for a problem that is a worldwide phenomenon.

"The practical steps recommended at this event will set the standard for all healthcare workers operating in conflict zones. Doctors, nurses and humanitarians present will discuss their own experiences of insecurity and learn from the significant work done by the ICRC and others on protecting healthcare against attack."