WMA President Highlights Devastating Consequences of Conflict

(23.05.2016) The indirect effects on health of conflict in the world were highlighted today by World Medical Association President Sir Michael Marmot.

In a speech at a joint meeting between the WMA and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Sir Michael said that the direct effects of conflict of death, physical and mental morbidity and disability had to be added to the considerable indirect effects due to the breakdown of social life and infrastructure. These included the destruction of education and health systems, macroeconomic and household economic losses, population relocation and the destruction of social networks and detrimental environmental aspects.

Sir Michael said: ‘I would argue that the indirect effects are as wide ranging and devastating, if not more so, than the direct effects. The social determinants of health are not only the drivers of conflict but also the consequences of conflict, because conflict breeds health inequalities’.

In a speech entitled ’Social determinants of health in the context of insecurity’, Sir Michael called for action to prevent the full consequences of conflict.

‘We need urgent action to prevent the consequences on the health of a whole population, the resulting problem of refugees, insecure borders and the violation of human rights.

‘We need action to prevent the random sexual violence that women face, the great mortality and morbidity that children suffer, the widespread loss of jobs adults face and the collapse of health service systems. The unrelenting poverty and oppression that flow from conflict are indefensible.’

Sir Michael said that the main countries where the world’s refugees came from were Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and the Congo, all areas of great conflict. This mass migration would continue unless and until people were content to stay in their birth countries because they saw the opportunities to live their lives in relative peace and security.

This, he argued, was why it was important to tackle the social determinants of health around the globe and create the conditions for people to have control over their lives.