Engaging with armed groups to protect health care

26 June 2015
Engaging with armed groups to protect health care

After a two-year long consultation process with 36 armed groups, the ICRC – as part of the Health Care in Danger initiative – has produced a publication addressing armed groups, calling on them to strengthen their commitment to protect health care.

Armed groups and the protection of health care

"Safeguarding the provision of health care: Operational practices and relevant International Humanitarian Law concerning armed groups" is a practical tool that provides armed groups and other interested audiences with information on relevant IHL obligations and practical measures that armed groups can adopt to safeguard the provision of health care.

Approaching armed groups can be difficult. But it is essential to safeguarding the provision of health care because:

  • According to studies conducted by the ICRC in countries affected by armed conflict, armed groups are responsible for 1/3 of recorded incidents affecting health care. Therefore, no solution to the problem of violence against health care can exist that does not take them into account.
  • Some armed groups have developed their own ways to care for their wounded and sick, and in some cases, for populations. They have relevant experiences and knowledge to share, and a clear interest in safeguarding the delivery of health care.
  • Armed groups and their members are mostly considered illegal and/or criminals under national laws, consequently, when they are sick or wounded, access to health care represents a real challenge for them.

The publication describes operational practices and measures the groups can implement to foster an environment conducive to:

  • safe delivery of, and access to, health care for all the wounded and sick;
  • prevent the occurrence or recurrence of abuses against health care;
  • ensure the safety and facilitate the work of health-care personnel, health-care facilities and medical vehicles;
  • develop their own ability to provide emergency health care.

Consultation process

Further information