News release

Australia: New report outlines how military forces can better protect health-care workers and patients

Canberra (ICRC) – A new publication promoting military practice that better protects health-care workers and patients in armed conflict and emergencies will be launched at a panel event hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Australian Red Cross in Canberra today.

 The report, entitled "Promoting military operational practice that ensures safe access to and delivery of health care", is part of the ICRC-led "Health Care in Danger" project, which aims to address violence against patients, medical staff and facilities in situations of war or other upheaval.

 The publication is the outcome of a year-long consultation process with military personnel around the world, aimed at identifying practical measures that could mitigate the impact of military operations on health care. This included an international workshop held in conjunction with the Australian government in December 2013 involving military personnel from more than 20 countries.

 "In conflict, a balance must always be struck between the need of patients to receive health care as quickly as possible and the legitimate security concerns of fighting forces," said Dr Bruce Eshaya-Chauvin, medical adviser to the "Health Care in Danger" project in Geneva. "The best way to achieve this balance is by adopting and implementing practical measures devised by the military forces themselves."

 The report proposes measures that can be incorporated into orders, rules of engagement, standard operating procedures or training, with the aim of mitigating the effects of military operations in three specific areas: at checkpoints, in connection with search operations in health facilities, and when attacks are launched. "For example, incorporating fast-track lanes at checkpoints for ambulances, or proactively communicating alternate routes to formal health-care providers, can be effective ways of reducing delays for medical transports carrying wounded or sick patients and preventing tragedies from occurring," said Dr Eshaya-Chauvin.

 "It is hoped that by adopting the proposals, State armed forces will avoid or minimize operations having negative effects on health care," he added.

 The report will be presented at a panel discussion, "Health Care in Danger: the way forward," that will be held at Australian National University. Speakers include Dr Eshaya-Chauvin, Paul McPhun, executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières Australia, and Dr Sarah Miller, a Canberra-based clinical and forensic psychologist with international experience with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

 For tickets to the panel discussion, register:

For further information, please contact:
Andrea Lunt ICRC Canberra, tel: +61 2 6273 2968 or +61 418 485 120