A group of concerned public health professionals has mobilized to raise awareness about and urge expedited advocacy action to end the Ukraine war and serve as a reminder of the ongoing Ethiopian war and the war crimes and crimes against humanity underway in that country since November 2020–in both armed conflicts leading to attacks on health facilities and healthcare and aid workers, numerous deaths, internal and external displacement, gender-based violence, and dire famine. We seek your assistance in advocating with your U.S. House and Senate representatives as described in the attached Call to Action containing action recommendations and related policies of APHA and the World Federation of Public Health Associations. In addition, attached are several recent UNICEF statements on Children in War, Lancet articles pertinent to extant conditions that justify concerted and collaborative action at this time, and a summary of a recent Medical University of South Carolina Symposium on war as a public health crisis with speakers’ abstracts covering wars in progress throughout the world.
A ‘team’ of individual American Public Health Association (APHA) members from the Global Maternal and Child Health Network and International Section, including representing a wide range of public health, healthcare, human rights, law, ethics, peace building, higher education, research, public policy and international development professionals, seek your advocacy supportto end the Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine and comparable war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ethiopia. We serve in a range of capacities in APHA Sections and similar professional/scientific associations. We contribute our voices and endorsement of recommendations stated herein as individual professionals,not as the official policy of those organizations for which we volunteer. We have drawn our actions, however, from consensus-derived, adopted APHA policies that speak to mitigating and addressing the cross-sectoral, public health manifestations of war.
Thank you in advance for the myriad of efforts underway by so many, as well as for your support and advocacy actions to address the dire, man-made armed conflict circumstances facing innocent children, women, vulnerable populations, and all the people standing up to those conducting destructive attacks for immoral and inhumane purposes.
The Palestine Health Justice Working Group, a committee of the American Public Health Association’s International Health (APHA-IH) Section, issued a statement last week focused on health justice for Palestinians. In it, they went beyond calling for a cease-fire to condemning ongoing settler-colonial violence and oppression by the Israeli government against Palestinians. The statement launched on Wednesday, May 19. Within 24 hours, they had 350 signatures from public health professionals across the globe (public health workers, social workers, physicians, nurses, medical students, and researchers, among others). By Saturday, May 22, this number had risen to 500 supporters.
To read the full text of their statement and to sign on: click here.
Over the past month, Palestinians have seen spiraling violence at the hands of Israeli military forces, police, and private mobs. But the attacks of last week – following Palestinian resistance to the eviction of Palestinians in the neighborhood of Shiekh Jarrah by Israelis – were the worst in years. Between May 10 and May 21, the Israeli military killed at least 230 Palestinians in Gaza, including 66 children; injured almost 2,000; and temporarily displaced more than 77,000. In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed 27 Palestinians and injured 6,794 more. Israel destroyed or damaged six hospitals and nine healthcare centers in Gaza, including a clinic that housed its only coronavirus testing lab, and killed two of the most prominent physicians in Gaza: Dr Ayman Abu Auf, head of the internal medicine department and Coronavirus response at Gaza’s largest hospital al-Shifa and Dr. Mo’in Ahmad al-Aloul, one of the few neurologists in Gaza.
The violence has taken an extreme toll on Palestinians, a community already suffering from hostility, such that on April 27 of this year, Human Rights Watch released a report condemning Israeli authorities for “crimes of apartheid and persecution.” Israel has undermined Palestine’s public health system for decades, through blockades and direct attacks. These efforts have undermined efforts at containing COVID 19. Vaccine access disparity reached such a critical point that many described it as institutionalized discrimination and as medical apartheid. These practices are especially damaging when viewed within the framework of ongoing occupation and deliberate gutting of the Palestinian health-sector under Israeli settler-colonial rule. On this point, Osama Tanous, a pediatrician and volunteer with the mobile clinic of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in Gaza, described the larger context of the most recent attacks on Gaza, pointing out, “Healthcare infrastructure in Gaza was already heavily damaged by decades of Israeli de-development and siege. Now it has suffered additional, direct attacks on facilities and workforce.”
While the group was heartened last week by the news of cease-fire, their statement called for more, including independent investigations into the short- and long-term physical and mental health implications of the actions of the Israeli government. They are especially concerned about ongoing attacks on civilians, healthcare, and healthcare workers, which are in clear violation of international law and the ethics of public health. Palestine Health Justice Working Group also emphasizes that their statement – like their ongoing work – is not just about the most recent events, but about decades of violence and oppression against Palestinians. Group co-chair and global health scholar Yara Asi, asserted, “While our statement addressed the immediate need for a lasting ceasefire, this statement goes further, to situate the violence in its historical context. The public health community is very much seeing the need to act on our professional ethics to promote ongoing justice in Palestine and Israel – not just for this week, but for the long-term.”
Regarding the need to situate the violence of last week within a larger context, last week human rights experts from the United Nations called for an International Criminal Court investigation into not only the most recent Israeli attacks against civilians and healthcare facilities, but also wide-spread evictions and illegal transfer of Palestinians by Israelis, along with the ongoing constraints on Palestinian housing, education, and freedom of movement.
In support of the statement, Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician trained in emergency medicine who has been working with Palestinian doctors for four decades, said, “I’m a medical doctor. I’m trained to treat root causes of suffering, not just symptoms. The Israeli occupation, colonization of Palestine, and brutal apartheid that underlies the health crisis in Palestine must end.”
The majority of signatories are from the United States, with others signing from the UK, Egypt, Canada, Spain, Israel, and Palestine. Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei, a psychiatrist in Palestine and head of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, said, “This statement sends a positive message to all supporters of the Palestinian struggle. We see justice getting closer and closer. No matter how difficult life is for us now, our dignity and our rights to health and to freedom are increasingly recognized, in this case, as the statement demonstrates, by a growing public health community concerned with justice for Palestine.”
Rachel Rubin, another co-chair of the Palestine Health Justice Working Group, who is also on the steering committee for the JVP Health Advisory Council, notes, “What we have seen this May is an increasingly urgent insistence that justice in Palestine is a compelling health issue, one that requires us to act on our ethical imperatives to promote freedom and oppose all forms of violence including settler-colonial control of Palestine.”
It was exactly this sentiment that led to the formation of APHA’s International Health Section Palestine Health Justice Working Group several years ago. The working group began as a network formed within the International Health Section to pass an APHA policy statement on the health harms of Israeli settler-colonial violence and oppression in Palestine. Serving as a forum for interaction, support, information exchange, and activism, the group works to raise consciousness about the issue among APHA members and other health professionals – through education at the APHA annual meeting and other venues, and through promoting the work and leadership of Palestinian health professionals.
As an organized body within APHA focused on health justice in Palestine, The Palestine Health Justice Working Group works not only externally, but also within APHA to pressure the organization to use our collective voice, as one of the leading global public health organizations, to voice opposition to Israel’s continual assaults on Palestinian health and freedom, as APHA has in contexts of Iran (#277718), Iraq (#200617), South Africa (#9122), Nicaragua (#8306), Yemen (LB19-13), and other locations.
The group’s statement aligns with several APHA resolutions, which have held that the prevention of genocide (#200030), the health effects of militarism (#8531), the health of refugees (#8531), law enforcement violence (#201811), attacks on healthcare workers (#201910), and health within armed conflict and war (#20095) are public health matters deserving of our attention and action. The statement also pushes APHA itself, as the Governing Council has–in four separate attempts (2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013)–failed to pass proposed resolutions expressing concern about how the Israeli occupation has undermined the health of Palestinians.
“People’s views are changing,” says Amy Hagopian, long-time section member and 2018 recipient of the section’s Victor Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace, who co-authored these resolutions, “APHA members are beginning to see through the rhetorical devices used to shut down debate on Palestine. This topic scares people because they think it’s too complicated, or they don’t want to be accused of being anti-Semitic, or the don’t see the connection to public health. Maybe the meaningful conversation about Black Lives and police violence in the U.S. over the last year has helped people connect some dots. The widespread support for this statement – and others like it – demonstrate that APHA could have this conversation in a respectful way, and step up to advocate for health justice for Palestinians.”
To get involved, people can join our Palestine Health Justice Working Group meetings at APHA’s annual meeting each year, or send a message to email@example.com. Please be sure to attend their invited session at APHA’s 2021 Annual Meeting: Sovereignty as a core determinant of health: The imperative for both social connection and independence, as well as other sessions that will be held on Palestinian health justice.
Sent on behalf of Paul Freeman, IH Section, Action Board
In 2016, the scientific community labeled gun violence a public health crisis and called for a greater public health response including federal research. We desperately need action on gun violence and prevention, but evidence-based decisions can’t be made because of an anti-science ban on research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Call your senators today and urge them to lift the ban on CDC research on gun violence.
Congress is working right now to put the finishing touches on its spending bill, which means that now is the perfect time to ask your senators to lift the ban on gun violence research at the CDC.
Call 855-589-5698 to reach the Capital switchboard and Press 1 to connect to your Senators. Dial in again and Press 2 to connect to your Representative.
Hi, my name is ______, and I’m calling from [town/city].
I’m calling to express my strong opposition to the budget rider that bans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence.
With deaths and injuries mounting from gun violence in our schools and communities, we need the federal government to study this problem and offer effective, evidence-based solutions to this crisis.
Putting our public dollars behind this problem is critical – we cannot continue to offer only thoughts and prayers, we must act.
I urge [Senator X] to remove the anti-science rider that prevents the CDC from conducting research on gun violence from the spending bill.
Thank you for your time.
IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied
Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S. Guns kill almost 30,000 people and cause 60,000 injuries each year. As a longtime advocate for violence prevention policies, APHA recognizes a comprehensive public health approach to addressing this growing crisis is necessary.
The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted in our culture, which is why we must take a public health approach to ensuring our families and communities are safe. We must place a renewed emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research. Ongoing work is needed to ensure firearms do not fall into the wrong hands and to expand access to mental health services to those who need it most.
If you are interested in a sample op-ed, letter to the editor or technical support to help reach your local media, please contact APHA Media Relations.
Visit APHA’s website to learn more about this issue and how you can take action.