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Attacks on doctors rise as rules of conduct in conflict zones are abandoned

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 24 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2973
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Modern conflicts are placing healthcare and healthcare workers in unprecedented danger, as the rules of humanitarian conduct are abandoned and attacks on doctors, nurses, and hospitals multiply, a conference in London heard this week.

Between the middle of 2008 and the end of 2010 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) catalogued more than 600 attacks on healthcare facilities and workers—but, bleak as the figures are, they underestimate the full scale of the problem, which as well as costing many lives undermines and weakens healthcare systems in some of the world’s most needy countries.

The one day meeting—“sounding an alarm and calling for action,” in the words of Geoff Loane, the ICRC’s head of mission in London—was organised by the ICRC, the British Red Cross, the World Medical Association, and the British Medical Association and brought together more than 100 experts.

Nobody questioned the scale of the problem, though several speakers called for better documentation. Andy Haines of the London School …

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