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World Humanitarian Day An Opportunity To Reflect On, Address Health Crisis In Syria

This Lancet editorial reflects on a medical crisis in Syria, highlighting a new report (.pdf) by Amnesty International that “documents the human rights abuses already occurring in the city.” The editorial states, “A disturbing feature of modern conflicts and, indeed, the Arab uprisings, has been the flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions, including targeting of civilians, persecution of health workers, and attacks on hospitals, alongside the failure of the U.N. system to prevent these violations,” and it highlights several examples cited in the report.

“The medical community may feel hopelessness in the face of these seemingly intractable situations,” but “there is much that it can do to monitor, report, and prevent the impact of conflict on the health of populations, as well as condemning attacks on civilians and breaches of medical neutrality,” the editorial continues. It concludes, “August 19 marks World Humanitarian Day, which aims to raise awareness about humanitarian work and pay respect to those who have lost their lives helping others such as the young doctors in Syria. The day should also be an opportunity to reflect on what more the medical community can do to understand and address the complex interactions between conflict and health, to protect civilians, including doctors, from harm, and to contribute to peace” (8/10).