OTTAWA, Sept. 24, 2013 /CNW/ - Some sixty experts from a number of different countries and specialties will come together for a two-day workshop in Ottawa tomorrow to address an urgent, global problem that leaves patients untreated, clinics shut down and the wounded and sick left to die.
In 2012 alone, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recorded 70 killings and 57 kidnappings of healthcare personnel in 22 countries. Threats also remained a dominant issue, with 238 healthcare personnel threatened that year.
In armed conflict and emergency situations, healthcare workers, their patients and healthcare facilities need to be respected - as do medical missions. All too often, however, they are the target of deliberate attacks. These attacks are a violation of international humanitarian law.
"Violence against healthcare workers, their patients and healthcare facilities in armed conflicts is one of the most critical humanitarian problems today," said Conrad Sauvé, secretary general and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross. "Over the next two days, our experts will work to identify concrete recommendations on how to help ensure the physical safety of health facilities in armed conflict and other emergencies."
"Hospitals and clinics are often among the first casualties of armed conflict," said Dr. Mark Steinbeck, a former war surgeon and the ICRC's leading expert on the subject of health care in danger in North America. "These facilities can be directly targeted, such as a deliberate attack or looting, as well as indirectly affected when a town's electricity or water supplies are cut off. Without these essential services, it becomes impossible to maintain a sterile environment or perform surgery, and it quickly becomes a matter of life and death."
The international expert workshop (Sept. 25-26) is co-hosted by the Canadian Red Cross and the ICRC. It is part of a series of Red Cross workshops led by the ICRC focusing on different aspects of this global problem, such as ambulance services, military practice and penal repression.
The World Medical Association (WMA), of which the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is a member, is an official partner in this campaign alongside the ICRC. The results achieved will be shared at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in 2015.
"It is a very sad commentary on the stability of our planet that it is necessary for health care professionals worldwide to have to worry about the safety of health structures amid global insecurity and violence," said Dr. Chris Simpson, President-Elect of the Canadian Medical Association. "All physicians swear an oath to provide care to those in needs regardless of the circumstances. And we have a special respect for physicians who serve in terrible conditions around the world."
Representatives from the Canadian Red Cross, the ICRC and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) will speak at a public panel discussion on the issue of violence against health care, to be held at the University of Ottawa on Friday, September 27.
"Attacks against health workers and health facilities have immense consequences on patients' ability to seek care," said Stephen Cornish, executive director of MSF Canada. "The injured and sick must be able to safely access medical care and those who are assisting populations caught up in conflict must be able to do so without risking their lives."
The Canadian Red Cross is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and 187 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Our mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and around the world.
SOURCE: CANADIAN RED CROSS
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