Medical Personnel Must Be Protected In Middle East Hostilities, Says WMA

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A plea to all sides in the Middle East crisis for medical personnel to be allowed to carry out their activities freely has been made by Dr Delon Human, secretary general of the World Medical Association. He condemned the use of ambulances for terrorist activities, but said that the targeting of ambulances and medical personnel by defence forces in Israel and the Palestinian homelands was "deplorable".

Following reports of doctors being prevented from reaching the dying and injured during the current fighting, Dr Human said that the situation was now desperate. He said he was concerned about the growing fear of epidemics resulting from dead bodies lying unburied.

Dr Human said the WMA would be raising the issue at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights later this month.

"Physicians and health care personnel must be free to tend the sick and wounded irrespective of race, religion, nationality, politics and sex. International treaties and WMA regulations throughout the years have declared that unconditional security must be provided for these humanitarian activities.

"And, of course, as well as those injured as a result of the fighting, people continue to suffer from the same medical problems that arise in peace time - heart attacks, strokes, cancer, obstetric emergencies, meningitis and so on. They need unobstructed access to health care."

WMA representatives are to debate the role of medical care in the current Middle East hostilities when they meet for their Council meeting in Divonne-les-Bains, France, in three weeks' time.