Can we measure trends in violence against health care in armed conflict and what good what it do? Spoiler: I’m not sure.


A body at the site of an airstrike on Monday at Abs Hospital in Yemen’s northern Hajjah Province. Photo by Reuters. Used in the following NYTimes article:

If you think you’ve been reading a lot about violence against health care facilities and health care workers in recent years, you have. Between January 2012 and December 2014, the ICRC documented 2,398 incidents of violence against health care in 11 countries. In Pakistan, the fight against Polio has suffered setbacks as a suicide attack targeted a vaccination centre in Quetta in January and a drive-by killed three vaccination workers in April. Last March, ISIS attacked the Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte, Libya and abducted 20 aid workers. In Syria, the healthcare system has been systematically attacked and depleted: in the space of a week, 6 hospitals have been bombed in and around Aleppo. And just two days ago, a hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was struck by airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Overall, some attacks or strikes have been (questionable) mistakes while others read like deliberate acts of violence meant to punish and intimidate adversaries as well as the civilian population in dire need of care in addition to food, water, shelter, and respite from violence.

Is the targeting of hospitals and medical workers the “new normal“? Or are we just ‘seeing’ them more? In other words, does the increased visibility – namely increased news coverage – of attacks against health care represent a new, increasing, and disturbing trend in armed conflict or are we just more attune to this particular form of violence?  Continue reading