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ICRC holds war-surgery seminar

29-03-2007 News Release 07/40

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is expecting over 40 surgeons and other specialized medical staff from various parts of the world to take part in its 18th war-surgery seminar, which will be held in Geneva from 30 March to 1 April 2007.

“Weapons of war cause much more damage and a higher infection rate than other weapons. War wounds must therefore be managed in a special way not usually taught in medical schools,” says Dr Marco Baldan, the ICRC’s chief surgeon. Since the means available for providing treatment in conflict areas are usually extremely limited, the seminar will focus on simple but proven methods of dealing with war-wounded patients that can be used even in particularly difficult circumstances, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan’s Darfur region.

The main purpose of the seminar is to raise awareness of the special nature of war surgery among the participants, many of whom have little or no experience treating patients in the difficult conditions of a war zone.

Dr Chris Giannou, an ICRC senior surgeon with 26 years of experience in conflict areas, will lecture on triage and mass casualty management. “Any medical facility would be overwhelmed by a massive influx of casualties,” he explains. “Saving lives therefore depends on making sure hospitals are adequately prepared and having the skills needed to make the right decision very quickly about which patients need aid first.”

The “brain drain” of skilled medical personnel from conflict zones is another important issue. “In Iraq and elsewhere, many doctors have fled the violence, leaving behind incomplete medical teams who struggle to perform tasks they were not trained for,” according to Dr Baldan. ICRC seminars on war surgery therefore also try to help medical staff from such areas cope with their increasing responsibilities.

In 2007 the ICRC plans to hold over 20 such seminars worldwide, i ncluding in Sudan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Lebanon, and in Jordan for Iraqi medical staff. The participants will be given the opportunity to share field experience and to receive instruction on such topics as appropriate surgical and anaesthesia techniques, wound management and patient care in war zones, and rules of international humanitarian law governing access to medical care in time of war.

For further information, please contact:
  Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 217 32 64
  or visit our website: