Violence against health workers must cease to help contain COVID-19 emergency

09 August 2020
Violence against health workers must cease to help contain COVID-19 emergency
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement deplores violence against health workers during the COVID-19 emergency. Saara MANSIKKAMÄKI / ICRC

Baghdad – The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement deplores violence and acts of intimidation against health workers and urges respect for all medical personnel, vehicles, and structures at this critical moment for the Iraqi health system during the COVID-19 emergency.

The Movement's work is closely associated with support to medical services and we have repeatedly heard distressing reports about rising numbers of threats and violations against health workers. These are hampering the medical response to the ongoing COVID-19 global health emergency, for which the health services need the expertise of every available health worker, be it doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, cleaning staff, and others.

Health staff across Iraq are working tirelessly and selflessly to try and stem the tide of COVID-19 infections and treat those affected. In many cases, it is at a considerable personal sacrifice, including exposure to infection and spending many weeks away from loved ones. Unfortunately, Iraqi medical staff has already experienced high levels of violence over the past years, and the COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated an already difficult situation.

Because health care professionals by the very nature of their job deal with situations of life and death, situations where emotions run high, they are very frequently exposed to adverse reactions. At the end of the day, the first victims are the sick and wounded as such violations reduce the chances of delivery of life-saving health care for thousands of Iraqis. This is especially the case during a global pandemic.

Acts of violence against medical personnel, ambulances, or medical facilities, as well as the wounded, are prohibited under the law. Health care professionals must also have access to safe working environments and mental health support for increased levels of stress.

Since the onset of the outbreak, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners have been working around the clock, contributing to the Iraqi authorities’ response in different ways, including by adapting existing health programs to new needs generated by the pandemic and providing additional support to public health structures dealing with COVID-19 cases.

Related assistance has included the donation of medical items, hygiene material, and personal protective equipment. In addition, a number of awareness campaigns were organized to sensitize the public on preventive measures and to battle the stigma against the infected population and health workers.

As part of the global Health Care in Danger (HCiD) initiative, the ICRC, the IRCS, and the IFRC aim to address the issue of violence against patients, health workers, health facilities and vehicles and help ensure safe access to, and impartial delivery of health care during armed conflict and other emergencies.

For more information, please contact:

Sahar Tawfeeq, ICRC Baghdad: +964 790 191 6927

Ghassan Thuani-IRCS Baghdad +9647706740075

Farid Aiywar, IFRC Baghdad +9647901922416