ICN condemns the normalization of the targeting of health care facilities and workers in conflicts around the world

25 January 2024
Howard WHO EB154

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has condemned the ongoing and increasing targeting of health care workers and facilities around the globe and calls on the international community to denounce such actions in the strongest possible terms.

ICN is intensifying its call to ensure the safety and wellbeing of nurses who are caught up in an increasing number of conflict zones across the world. The increased number and protracted nature of conflicts, and the inability to resolve them, are creating huge risks and demands for our nurses and health care systems whose protection should be a priority.

This week at the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting in Geneva, ICN Chief Executive officer Howard Catton will deliver an intervention on WHO’s Roadmap for the Global Health and Peace Initiative in which he will renew ICN’s call for the protection of nurses and health facilities in conflict zones, and the provision of safe passage for humanitarian aid.

Commenting on the worsening global situation, Mr Catton said the rise in the number, duration and intensity of serious conflicts around the world is a grave cause for concern.

“Over the last few years we have seen the world engulfed in many more protracted wars and conflicts, and the signs for 2024 are ominous. We approach the third anniversary of the conflict in Myanmar, the second anniversary of the Ukraine war, and it is more than 100 days since the start of the conflict in Gaza. Yet despite the fact that the protection of and respect for health care facilities and staff is enshrined in international humanitarian law, in many parts of the world, at best it feels as though these obligations are being ignored and at worst that targeting health care staff and facilities has become part of military strategies.

‘Health workers have human rights, and they and the health facilities people rely on are protected in accordance with the Geneva conventions. But they continue to be subjected to violence and attacks, and I have to say it feels as though such situations are becoming normalized, which is totally unacceptable. ICN again calls on international organizations and all political leaders to condemn outright the normalization of these deplorable acts.”

ICN established its #NursesforPeace campaign two years ago in response to the situation in Ukraine. Now #NursesforPeace is providing a range of support to nurses in various hotspots around the world, including Afghanistan, Sudan, Myanmar, Israel and Palestine.

Mr Catton said: “We know that nurses support health and healing, which are fundamental building blocks for peace. When nurses treat ill health, they frequently identify and address risk factors for conflict, including poverty, exclusion and a lack of respect for people’s rights. Nurses’ work helps to create social cohesion and deliver social justice, which are vital ingredients for peace and stability. Investing in nurses is an investment for health, peace and a better future for everyone.

‘Thanks to the generous donations we have received, we have expanded our support for nurses and National Nursing Associations in countries where, through no fault of their own, nurses are working in the most challenging and dangerous of circumstances. They will carry on doing their duty – it is the duty of others to protect them and provide peace for people everywhere.”

To read the latest Update on ICN’s #NursesforPeace campaign please see here and to donate click here