UN agency calls for safety of Afghan hospitals and medical staff

6 April 2009

A senior United Nations health official today called for medical facilities and staff to be protected in Afghanistan, speaking on the eve of World Health Day, which this year focuses on ensuring the safety of hospitals.

WHO would like to take this opportunity to call on all actors involved in the conflict to respect the neutrality of health facilities and health workers,” Peter Graaff, the Country Representative for the World Health Organization (WHO), told a news conference in Kabul.

This year WHO is focusing on the safety of health facilities which are most needed during emergencies but too often become casualties themselves.

The campaign – “Save lives, make hospitals safe in emergencies” – highlights the important work of health facilities and workers, and promotes the need to ensure their safety. It underscores the importance of investing in health infrastructure that is able to withstand natural hazards, conflicts or a deteriorating situation.

Hospitals in Afghanistan are vulnerable due to the geographical situation of the country, which makes it prone to natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, but also due to the ongoing conflict in the country.

According to WHO, hospitals are among those buildings that have to survive during any natural disaster or conflict so that resulting casualties can be reduced. A poorly constructed hospital, which collapses during an earthquake because it was not built to the required specifications, increases the risk of death and injury.

At today’s news conference held at the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, one of the oldest in the capital, WHO and the Afghan Ministry of Public Health stressed the importance of ensuring the safety and protection of hospitals and staff.

“In recent years 50 health workers have lost their lives while providing services due to the conflict and 41 health workers were either killed or kidnapped,” said Dr. Nadira Hayat, Deputy Minister of Public Health.

Mr. Graaff thanked all health workers, especially those living in remote and difficult circumstances, for their hard work and commitment to helping the Afghan people.

 

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