Warzone docs under attack

The funeral of Palestinian medic Razan Al-Najjar, shot dead on the Gaza border – NHS unions demand attacks on doctors stop

HOSPITALS bombed by Saudi forces in Yemen murdering the staff inside, and doctors shot dead in Palestine treating the wounded on the Gaza border, are just two examples of attacks on medical workers in conflict zones, condemned yesterday by doctors’ union BMA, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) and fourteen other Royal Colleges.

They have signed the Colombo Declaration, which condemns attacks on medical workers in conflict zones, and written to the Foreign Secretary requesting that the UK government also signals its support for the important document.

The Colombo Declaration – drafted in Sri Lanka in 2016 – condemns the targeting of medical facilities, patients and clinicians in areas of conflict and calls on United Nations member states to support the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 2286, however it is not being enforced.

In the first three quarters of 2018 alone, there were 299 attacks across 16 countries.

The letter to Jeremy Hunt, led by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, and signed by BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul and the heads of fourteen other Royal Colleges, states: ‘We know that many members and fellows from all Colleges work in conflict zones and carry out humanitarian relief work.

‘The UK Colleges have now signed their support for the Declaration and would like to ask the UK government to signal its support for this important Declaration by raising the issue again in the UN and lobbying them to enforce UNSC Resolution 2286.’

Adding his support to the letter, Dr John Chisholm, chair of the BMA’s medical ethics committee said: ‘We condemn in the strongest possible terms the practice of intentionally targeting medical personnel and facilities in areas of conflict.

‘Access to health care is a fundamental human right and it is essential that healthcare workers are at liberty to provide assistance in conflict zones without fear of being targeted.’

A hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in northern Yemen was bombed by the Saudi coalition forces on 26 October 2015. Oxfam said that this attack ‘may have amounted to a ‘war crime’.

The UK government has been supplying weapons to to the Saudis which are being used on the people of Yemen.

Last year, the UK issued arms exports worth £2.94 billion to Saudi Arabia in a period of just nine months.

In Gaza, Razan Al-Najjar, a 21-year-old Palestinian medic, was shot and killed by Israeli snipers as she was treating an injured protester on June 1st 2018. Al-Najjar was shot after she and other medics, walking with their hands up and wearing white vests, approached the border fence in order to treat a wounded protester.