Red Cross report highlights impact of explosive weapons on healthcare

A new report ‘Healthcare in Danger’ released by the International Committee of the Red Cross this week highlights the impact of violence on the provision of healthcare. Many of the findings point to the use of explosive weapons as a key form of violence posing concerns to healthcare providers. The report has generated substantial international media coverage.

In their analysis of 655 violent events affecting healthcare providers over two and a half years, the report authors have disaggregated data to show whether an explosive weapon or a firearm was used. A picture emerges indicating that, in general, events involving explosive weapons cause significantly more deaths, injuries and damage than those using firearms.

Some key points of the data showed that in incidents affecting healthcare providers:

• casualty data shows that where explosive weapons are used, 20.7 people are killed or injured per event compared with 2.3 people per event where firearms are used;
• where wounded or sick people were killed or injured while in healthcare, 63.6% of these casualties were caused by explosive weapons, 22.7% by firearms and 13.6% by unknown, not applicable or other weapons;
• where damage was caused to healthcare facilities, 70.7% was caused by explosive weapons, 4.3% by firearms and 25% by unknown, not applicable or other weapons.

In its conclusions, the report notes that:

“The data presented above can be interpreted in a limited number of profiles of violence affecting health care. In relation to hospitals and other health-care facilities, these are:
• use of explosive weapons, by State armed forces during active hostilities, that – intentionally or unintentionally – hit healthcare premises or medical vehicles, at the same time killing and injuring people;
• …”

“The principal forms of violence affecting health-care personnel are:
• use of explosive weapons by State armed forces during active hostilities, causing deaths and injuries;
• …”

“In addition, this data set shows that:
• “the number of people killed or injured per event is greater when explosive weapons are used, as compared with other weapons;
• …”

This important ICRC report follows on from previous research by Action on Armed Violence on the types of incidents that cause harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and by Save the Children on the particular harm explosive weapons cause to children. In its analysis of the challenges facing healthcare professionals in violent situations, the ICRC has provided further evidence that the use of explosive weapons is a significant humanitarian problem that requires immediate action from states and other users of explosive weapons to prevent this predictable pattern of harm.

By Thomas Nash, Coordinator, International Network on Explosive Weapons

11 August 2011

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