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Senegal: conference on violence against health-care workers and facilities

30-04-2012 News Release 12/89

Dakar (ICRC) – Thousands of wounded or sick people die every year in many parts of the world after going without medical care because of armed violence. To raise awareness among governments and within civil society of the problem of violence committed against health-care workers and facilities, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has co-organized a conference entitled "Health care in danger: a West African perspective on a major humanitarian problem." The event will take place in Dakar on 30 April in Dakar.

The aim is to promote a better understanding of the problem through first-hand accounts of people who were involved in relief operations during the conflicts in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire and of military personnel who have taken part in peace-keeping operations. The conference will bring together representatives of Senegal's government and armed forces, the diplomatic community, the United Nations, media organizations, medical NGOs and civil society.

"It is urgent that all States, armed forces, security forces, and armed groups as well as health professionals, humanitarian organizations, the media and civil society concern themselves with this issue and find ways of resolving it," said the ICRC's Paul-Henri Arni. "In West Africa as elsewhere, it's a matter of life and death."

Of 79 incidents involving health care identified by the ICRC that took place in 13 countries in January and February, 70 per cent involved local facilities and personnel. These figures represent only the tip of the iceberg, however. When a doctor, a health-care centre or a hospital is targeted, hundreds or even thousands of people already suffering the effects of armed violence are deprived of access to health care, often for an indefinite period of time. These humanitarian challenges, which were discussed by the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva in November 2011, require that concrete steps be taken urgently to enhance protection for facilities and personnel and thereby improve medical assistance for the injured and the sick.

The conference in Dakar is being jointly organized by the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Senegalese Red Cross Society in cooperation with the general staff of the Senegalese army and the Council of Non-Governmental Organizations for Development Support. In 2013, a similar conference will again be held in Dakar to continue to galvanize opinion in West Africa as part of a worldwide effort that will last until 2015.

For further information, please contact:
Dénes Benczédi, ICRC Dakar, tel: +221 77 529 71 45 or +221 33 869 14 40