Unrelenting violence: MAP joins global coalition in highlighting attacks on healthcare

Today, the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC) released its latest annual report, Unrelenting Violence: Violence Against Health Care in Conflict 2021, which charts the continuing high incidence of attacks on healthcare personnel and facilities in conflict zones around the world last year.

Despite the strain on service providers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and increasing global recognition of the need to protect healthcare from danger, the Coalition recorded 1,335 reported incidents affecting 1,458 health workers in 14 contexts including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ethiopia and the occupied Palestinian territory.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has been a member of the SHCC since 2015, and contributed once again this year to the report’s chapter on attacks on Palestinian healthcare. In total, 169 incidents were reported in 2021, which included the injuring of 61 health workers and damage or destruction of 30 healthcare facilities.

Many of these incidents occurred during Israel’s devastating 11-day military assault on Gaza in May 2021, with 53 reported incidents where explosive weapons affected health workers and at least 30 hospitals and clinics. Emergency medical teams were also frequently obstructed and attacked by Israeli forces and settlers while trying to treat injured civilians at protests against displacement, discriminatory policies and settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. 

The report also describes Israel’s regular obstruction of Palestinians’ healthcare access, including through blocks and delays to ambulances at checkpoints and the routine denial and delay of permits for patients needing to travel for care. In Gaza, 37% of all patients’ travel permits were denied or delayed in 2021, meaning missed appointments and potentially deadly consequences for some. As the report highlights: “Cancer patients whose initial permit applications to exit Gaza for treatment were unsuccessful have been found to have a mortality rate on average 1.45 times higher than those whose applications were successful.”

“In the occupied Palestinian territory, medics are obstructed or beaten, ambulances damaged, and hospitals and clinics raided or damaged with alarming regularity.” Rohan Talbot, MAP’s Interim Director of Advocacy and Campaigns.

MAP’s Interim Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Rohan Talbot, said: “In the occupied Palestinian territory, medics are obstructed or beaten, ambulances damaged, and hospitals and clinics raided or damaged with alarming regularity. This situation is fuelled by impunity, with perpetrators secure in the knowledge that such violations will go routinely unpunished. World leaders must finally put their words into action and ensure all attacks on healthcare – both in Palestine and globally – are met with genuine investigations, accountability, and guarantees of non-recurrence.”

The Coalition makes a number of important recommendations for action that must be taken to end attacks on healthcare across the world, including though ending impunity for perpetrators through domestic and international legal mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court; strengthening protection through better data collection, training, and reporting; and strengthening global and domestic leadership from the World Health Organisation, national health ministers, legislative bodies and other key actors.

You can read the report in full here.

MAP is campaigning for international action to address the root causes of Gaza’s perpetual health crisis, which includes impunity for Israel’s repeated attack on its healthcare system. Please take action by emailing your MP today.

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Photo: Israel's attacks on the Al-Remal clinic during its military offensive on Gaza in May 2021. (Credit: Reflection Media / MAP).

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