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41 attacks on Afghan hospitals, workers over past year

KABUL: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) deplored that armed groups had attacked hospitals, clinics, and health personnel in several violent incidents in Afghanistan over the past year.

The HRW and the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition said in a joint report released on Wednesday that attacks on medical facilities, health workers, and patients have occurred in at least 17 countries undergoing conflict and civil unrest since January 2014.

The report “attacks on health: Global report” highlighted recent attacks in countries around the world. Over the past year armed groups have attacked hospitals, clinics, and health personnel in 41 incidents in Afghanistan and deliberately killed over 45 health workers, primarily polio vaccinators, in Nigeria and Pakistan.

“The UN General Assembly called on member countries in December to take concrete steps to improve protection for health workers,” said Leonard Rubenstein, chair of the coalition, which included more than two dozen nongovernmental groups.

“However, ongoing targeted attacks on health facilities and violence against health workers, and the absence of a robust system of accountability for them, indicates that much more needs to be done,” Rubenstein added.

The World Health Organization should fast-track its initiative to develop systems to collect and disseminate information on attacks on medical facilities and personnel, HRW and the coalition said. They also urged governments and non-state armed groups to do more to prevent attacks and to hold accountable those responsible.

The report was released in conjunction with an online map of attacks on health care produced by Physicians for Human Rights.

“Instead of being protected, medical care is actually a target,” said Donna McKay, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, a member of the coalition.

“Attacks on health facilities and workers violate international law and interfere with fundamental protections of the right to health,” said Joe Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, a member of the coalition. (PAN)

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