Over the past year the world has been horrified, yet passive, as targeted violence against civilians and healthcare workers continued in Syria, the latest high-profile example of health systems coming under attack during armed conflict.


Less than one month ago, the Center for Public Health and Human Rights of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health convened a meeting of international experts in Bellagio, Italy, to address this “grave problem,” resulting in a call to action published online yesterday. The experts say “urgent action is needed to address the problem and call upon the international community to advance the security of health,” and list specific actions for states, armed groups, professional organizations, the United Nations, funding bodies and others to take.


Participants included Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society; Margaret Mungherera, President of the World Medical Association; Judith Shamian, President of the International Council of Nurses; and Leonard Rubenstein, faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and Director of the Human Rights Program for the Center for Public Health and Human Rights. A full list of participants is included in the call to action.


“The call to action recognizes that the protection of health in situations of violence cannot be a niche issue,” Rubenstein says. “By coming together, the health systems, human rights, bioethics, academic research, human resources and humanitarian communities, along with governments and multilateral institutions, can increase the security of health in the most fraught circumstances.”


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Call to Action: Bellagio Conference on Protection of Health Workers, Patients and Facilities in Times of Violence

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Leah Ramsay
Leonard Rubenstein

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