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Gaza-Israel conflict: World Medical Association backs BMA’s call for sustainable ceasefire

BMJ 2024; 385 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q945 (Published 24 April 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;385:q945
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

The World Medical Association (WMA) has called for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza after its council passed a resolution put forward by the BMA.

The WMA said that it was gravely concerned by the deepening healthcare and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the growing starvation and lack of medical care, and the continued imprisonment and abuse of hostages.

The association’s president, Lujain AlQodmani, said, “WMA is demanding a bilateral, negotiated, and sustainable ceasefire in order to protect all civilians, secure the release and safe passage of all hostages, and allow the transfer of humanitarian aid for all. We reiterate our call for respect of humanitarian law and call for protection of all healthcare facilities and personnel. It’s a crisis that demands an immediate action.”

The resolution, passed by the WMA’s council in Seoul, South Korea, calls for the immediate and safe release of all hostages and, pending their release, humanitarian aid and healthcare attention to be provided to them.

It also calls for “unimpeded and accelerated humanitarian access” throughout all of Gaza, including the admittance of humanitarian aid and safe passage of medical personnel. This also includes the evacuation of urgent medical cases to reduce secondary morbidity and mortality, limit public health risks, and alleviate pressure on hospitals inside Gaza, said the WMA.

Access to healthcare must be re-established alongside a safe working environment for healthcare personnel to restore medical capacity and essential services, it added. The resolution also called for verified investigations into alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, including attacks on healthcare staff and facilities and the misuse of those facilities for military purposes.

AlQodmani commented, “As physicians, we have a moral obligation to uphold the principles of the WMA Declaration of Geneva and other documents that serve as guidance for medical personnel during times of conflict.”

Medical neutrality

Latifa Patel, representative body chair at the BMA, said, “The sheer scale of suffering has been incredibly painful to witness as the continued imprisonment of hostages, the unbearable suffering and deaths of over 30 000 innocent civilians, especially children, and the devastation of the healthcare system have only exacerbated this worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

Thanking members of the WMA who had backed the resolution, Patel added, “The WMA has sent a powerful message on behalf of doctors across the world about the duty to uphold the principles of medical neutrality, human rights, and humanitarian values.

“We want to see an immediate end to this conflict and humanitarian crisis, the safe return of all hostages, and the protection of civilians. We stand in solidarity with our healthcare colleagues who continue to care for their patients in the most difficult of circumstances.”

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