No Respite: Violence Against Health Care in Conflict 2020

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, of which MedGlobal sits on the Steering Committee, released its eighth annual report documenting the global incidence of attacks and threats against health workers, facilities, and transport around the world in 2020.

The report documents a range of violence against health care amid ongoing wars and violent conflicts from 2020:

  • 806 incidents of attacks against or obstruction of health care in 43 countries and territories in ongoing wars and violent conflicts.
  • 185 health workers killed and 117 health workers kidnapped.
  • 175 incidents affecting health facilities, including hospitals being bombed, attacked, damaged, or destroyed.

Attacks – including killings, kidnappings, and sexual assaults, as well as destruction and damage of health facilities and transports – compounded the threats to health in every country as health systems struggled to prepare for and respond to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, countries sustaining the highest number of attacks included Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Libya, the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), Syria, and Yemen. Although these figures (806 incidents) represent a modest decline compared to the overall number of reports identified by the Coalition in 2019 (1,203 incidents), the number of killings showed a 25% increase and the number of kidnappings showed a 65% increase.

The findings reveal that, on the fifth anniversary of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2286 on protection of health care in conflict, acts of violence against health care have not been curbed and impunity for those who commit them has remained a constant.Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition Chair and MedGlobal Board Member Leonard Rubenstein notes, “The reasons for violence are variable and sometimes complex, but the explanation for continuing impunity is not. States have failed to fulfil their commitments to take action – individually or as part of an international effort – to prevent such violence or hold the perpetrators accountable.”  

The full 2020 data cited in the report can be accessed via Attacks on Health Care in Countries in Conflict on Insecurity Insight’s page on the Humanitarian Data Exchange.

Read the full report here.