Health Care in Danger: Why data-gathering matters

13-02-2014 Article

The ICRC often witnesses or receives first-hand accounts of attacks on health-care personnel, looting of hospitals, and patients who are deprived access to health care. Over the last two years, our field teams have been gathering data on these incidents in a more systematic way than before.

An initial annual report was published in 2013, presenting the main trends without singling out specific contexts or perpetrators (available on Another report is due to be published in April this year, compiling all of the information collected since the beginning of the exercise, with a focus on incidents affecting infrastructure. At the end of the Health Care in Danger project, the data will be used in a final report to be presented at the next International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, in 2015.

Up to now, more than 1,650 violent incidents have been recorded in 23 countries. These figures are probably only the tip of the iceberg of this very complex problem. The data-gathering exercise has already helped to shape discussions about the issue and provide new angles from which to approach it. For instance, facts and figures were used to illustrate the current state of affairs in background documents for most of the expert consultations.

New and sometimes surprising trends have emerged. For example, the figures show that up to 90% of the health-care providers affected by violence so far are local staff, whereas global media channels tend to give more attention to attacks on international staff.

Global data often prove a powerful resource for advocacy, helping to influence decision-makers, emphasize the urgency of taking action, facilitate dialogue with potential perpetrators and mitigate risks.
The ICRC is not alone in developing its own monitoring methodology: more and more international organizations are doing the same, which shows that the exercise is gaining momentum. As the issue climbs up the international agenda, data-gathering is set to become an increasingly indispensable task.


Health-care providers

Local health-care providers and national NGOs1289
RC/RC National Society213
International NGOs and UN agency92