Syrian and Bahrain Governments urged to Protect Health Care

(28.04.2012) The World Medical Association has called on the governments of Syria and Bahrain to fulfill their obligations to protect all their citizens and residents from interference, intimidation or attack during the armed conflicts affecting their countries. It said this protection should cover political protestors, patients and health care workers and all health care facilities and their occupants.

At its Council meeting in Prague, the WMA adopted an emergency resolution following the grave concern expressed by its members about the conflicts in Syria and Bahrain where physicians have been killed and injured while treating patients.

Dr. Jose Gomes do Amaral, President of the WMA, said: ‘We denounce these appalling attacks on physicians, health care workers and patients. Every time a physician is kidnapped, attacked or killed, the delivery of health care is damaged, often destroyed altogether and patients suffer. And it is the poorest and most marginalized parts of the community that tend to be the hardest hit.

‘Governments have an obligation to ensure that health care facilities and those working in them can operate in safety and without state interference. And where these services are not available due to government inaction, the government should be held responsible.

‘What is now urgently required is for the governments in Syria and Bahrain to enter into meaningful negotiations wherever such attacks are taking place or likely to take place, to protect the health institutions and their occupants. Physicians and other health care personnel must be considered as neutral in armed conflicts and we believe that all attacks must be properly investigated and those responsible for the violations of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols must be brought to justice.'

The WMA Council also expressed its strong support and co-operation for the project being undertaken by the International Committee of the Red Cross, ‘Health Care in Danger', to promote the safety of health care provision in areas of armed conflict.