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20 Aug, 2015

UN health agency kicks-off campaign honouring world’s health workers

United Nations, (UN News Centre) 14 August 2015 – The World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing to launch a campaign aimed at honouring the sacrifices and efforts of thousands of international health workers deployed to the frontlines of the world’s most pressing crises, the United Nations agency has announced.

Health workers are the heroes at the heart of humanitarian action. Photo: WHO

The online campaign – to be known by its social-media friendly moniker #ThanksHealthHero – will seek to draw attention to the growing threats faced by health workers and the need for intensified action to protect them ahead of next week’s World Humanitarian Day to be observed by the UN system on 19 August.

In a press release, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan noted that the agency remains committed to saving lives and reducing suffering in times of crisis despite an uptick in targeted attacks against health workers.

“Attacks against health care workers and facilities are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law,” Dr. Chan declared. “Health workers have an obligation to treat the sick and injured without discrimination. All parties to conflict must respect that obligation.”

According to the WHO, in 2014 alone there were 372 attacks in 32 countries on health staff, resulting in 603 deaths and 958 injuries, while similar incidents have been recorded this year.

Ongoing attacks on health facilities have also been increasingly reported, the agency added. In Yemen alone, 190 health facilities are non-functional and another 183 partly functional as result of the ongoing conflict, including 26 health facilities that have been attacked since May 2015.

Similarly, in Iraq, more than 180 front line health services in 10 governorates have been suspended, leaving millions of refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities without access to health care.

The WHO’s latest campaign will now seek to draw attention to the health workers’ plight and solicit messages of thanks from around the world via social media.