Medical care under fire

English

War Breaks Out: Interpreting Violence on Healthcare in the Early Stage of the South Sudanese Civil War

This article seeks to document and analyse violence affecting the provision of healthcare by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its intended beneficiaries in the early stage of the current civil war in South Sudan. Most NGO accounts and quantitative studies of violent attacks on healthcare tend to limit interpretation of their prime motives to the violation of international norms and deprivation of access to health services.

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Attacks on Hospitals: an Alarming Problem for Military Medicine as well as for Humanitarian Medicine

As part of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Additional Protocols I and II of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions and other treaties provide for the protection of patients, medical personnel and health infrastructures during armed conflicts. They recognize the primacy of medical ethics in times of war, notably the principle of non-discrimination. Attacks against hospitals or health care providers during armed conflicts signal a blatant disregard for such protections. A state of affairs where IHL is ignored, denied or revisited has far-reaching consequences for the medical profession.

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Perspectives from the field

Since its foundation, MSF has faced different forms of violence against its patients, staff, health facilities and medical vehicles, as well as against national health systems in general. Medical practice can thus be perverted for political and martial purposes. This violence deprives entire populations of vital assistance and is a means for the parties to the conflict to exert, both symbolically and practically, their power over people’s lives.
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