APHA Signs on to Letter to WHO Executive Board on Protection of Health Care Workers

The following message is from Peter Freeman, chair of the IH Section’s Advocacy and Policy Committee.

Since October 2011, members of the IH Advocacy & Policy Committee have been participating on a coalition, organized through IntraHealth International, whose aim is to bring global focus onto the protection of health care workers, patients and systems in areas and times of conflict.

In mid January 2012, the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) is scheduled to meet; members of this coalition will be in attendance. To move the coalition’s agenda forward, a letter is being presented to the WHO Executive Board asking to put a resolution before the WHO Assembly that would call for:
*the development and implementation of a plan to collect and report data concerning attacks on health facilities, workers and patients or other violations of medical neutrality where conflicts are taking place;
*make this data publicly available on the WHO website
*regularly update said data
The coalition has asked for agencies who have stake in the protection of global health care infrastructures to sign onto this letter.

It is greatly exciting to report that on January 13, 2012, APHA agreed to become a signatory of this letter! The Advocacy & Policy Committee is encouraged to see a growing receptiveness and response by APHA staff to give the association a voice on the global health platform and we look forward to many more advocacy victories!

Peter F Freeman, MPH
Chair, APHA-IH Advocacy/Policy Committee

Content of the letter signed on by APHA:

Dear Members of the WHO Executive Board:

We write to urge that you support action at the Executive Board to bring WHO’s expertise to the pressing problem of attacks on health care, including health care workers, during situations of conflict. The report released by the International Committee of the Red Cross last August – Health Care in Danger – concluded that, “in terms of number of people affected, violence, both real and threatened, against health-care workers, facilities and beneficiaries is one of the biggest, most complex, and yet most under-recognized humanitarian issues today.” As Director-General Margaret Chan recognized in her address to the World Health Assembly last May, the problem needs the urgent attention of the global health community. WHO is uniquely positioned to address a key need identified by the ICRC and many others, which is sound and reliable data on the magnitude and dynamics of violence against health care and health workers.

WHO’s expertise in developing an evidence base for global health policy, in health systems development and in humanitarian coordination creates an opportunity for leadership at the global level. The WHO can develop and implement methods for systematic collection of data on attacks on health facilities, workers, and transport and patients in conflict areas. This should be done in cooperation with other relevant UN agencies, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.

We ask that the Executive Board adopt a resolution for consideration by the World Health Assembly that requests the Director-General to develop and implement a plan for WHO to collect and report data on attacks on health facilities, workers and patients where conflicts are taking place or other violations of medical neutrality. The data should be publicly available and periodically updated on the WHO web site.

The signatories to this letter are familiar with the tragic consequences of violence on health care. There are roles for many entities, including health workers themselves, governments, professional associations, non-governmental organizations and other UN agencies. All must do their part to increase protection. WHO’s role is limited but essential, as it is in the best position to lead the data collection process.

We therefore urge you to support action at the Executive Board to enhance protection of health in situations of conflict.

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