WCPT has put its name to an open letter to all UN member states, calling on them to take measures to protect patients, health workers and health facilities during armed conflict.
The initiative follows damage to two hospitals in Aleppo, including Al-Quds hospital which was bombed on 27th April, killing or injuring at least 55 staff and patients. The hospital was supported by the humanitarian organisations Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The Confederation joined with 40 health and humanitarian organisations to spell out the need for firm action to end violence against health service providers. At the same time, the United Nations Security Council passed a landmark resolution demanding protection for health workers, accountability for attacks, and respect for international law.
“Scores of health care workers are being killed or injured while caring for sick and wounded men, women and children during armed conflicts,” says the open letter, produced by the International Committee of the Red Cross and endorsed by the World Medical Association and the International Council of Nurses as well as WCPT.
“These acts of violence exacerbate the impact of war on people, bringing more deaths, more disabilities, higher disease rates and greater physical and mental suffering.”
The letter calls on national governments to introduce or review domestic legislation to prevent violence against patients, health personnel and facilities. It welcomes the new UN Security Council resolution, adopted on 3rd May, which condemns attacks of this kind and deplores the long-term consequences for patients, civilians and the health care systems of the countries concerned.
The resolution calls on member states to conduct independent investigations and prosecute those found responsible for violations “in accordance with domestic and international law”.
WCPT is an official supporter of ICRC’s Health Care in Danger initiative to encourage measures to protect health workers. In 2014 the Confederation signed a memorandum of understanding with ICRC, agreeing that the two organisations would work together to combat violence against patients and health workers.
“Violence against health professionals in conflict zones is an issue that resonates across the global community,” said Tracy Bury, WCPT Interim Chief Executive Officer.
“Physical therapists are increasingly forming part of frontline teams in these settings and along with all health workers should not be denied the right to work in safety and security, for their own protection and for the protection of patients around the world.”
In March this year, WCPT pledged its support for the Health Care in Danger campaign, stating “physical therapists play a vital role in dealing with the health problems and functional limitations that are the direct consequence of armed violence and the use of landmines and other weapons of war, even in peace times”.
WCPT has also added its name in support of the campaign’s Ethical Principles of Health Care in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Emergencies.