September 24, 2022

The danger of being a doctor in a war zone

Dr Abd-al-Razzaq Jbeiro, secretary-general of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, was shot and killed two weeks ago on a highway near Damascus.

Dr Abd-al-Razzaq Jbeiro, secretary-general of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, was shot and killed two weeks ago on a highway near Damascus. Although the Red Crescent emblem was clearly visible on his vehicle. Dr Jbeiro’s death shocked the organisation, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. They have pleaded with those involved in the violence to spare Red Crescent and Red Cross staff and volunteers so they can perform their humanitarian work. The ICRC wrote in a press release: “The exclusively humanitarian aim of the Red Crescent and Red Cross is to bring aid in a fully impartial and neutral manner to people in need.”

Dr Jbeiro’s death is only one example of violence against humanitarian healthcare workers. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) recently declared that its workers in conflict zones have increasingly found themselves and their clinics under attack. NPR reported two weeks ago that the organisation decided to stop treating patients from detention centres in Misrata, Libya because: “torture was so rampant that some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.”

It was noted in the Hastings Center Bioethics Forum that over 1800 people have been injured or killed in over 600 cases of violent attacks on healthcare professionals, clinics, patients or patients’ families across 16 countries in under 3 years – but that these numbers are “clearly not comprehensive”. It was also reported that the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) executive board passed a resolution last month calling the WHO director general for leadership in documenting such attacks. ~ Hastings Center Bioethics Forum, Feb 3; NPR, Jan 26; International Committee of the Red Cross, Jan 25

The danger of being a doctor in a war zone
Jared Yee
human dignity
torture