MSF: UN Security Council fails to protect war-zone hospitals

The UN Security Council has "plainly failed" to stop attacks against hospitals and medical staff in war zones, despite a resolution passed in May that called for their protection, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said.

Representatives of the medical aid group and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the council in a meeting on Wednesday that assaults on hospitals continue unabated in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

Just hours before the meeting in New York, two hospitals in the rebel-held eastern part of the Syrian city of Aleppo were hit by shelling and airstrikes.

Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, said that the council's resolution has "plainly failed to change anything on the ground" in the five months since its adoption.

"This failure reflects a lack of political will among member states fighting in coalitions, and those who enable them," Liu said. "There can be no more waiting. Make your pledges operational."

Liu noted that besides numerous attacks on hospitals in Syria, many of them backed by MSF, a Saudi-led coalition fighting against Houthi rebels in Yemen has also continued to bomb medical facilities. The coalition is supplied with arms by the US, Britain and France.

As the Syrian government is supported by Russia, Liu pointed out that four of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - are "implicated in some way" in attacks on hospitals in Syria and Yemen.

"In an age when counter-terrorism shapes war, a license to kill has been issued," she said. "We call on you all - again - to revoke this license. Revoke it, whether or not your enemies are receiving the medical care that you attack."

Liu also called for accountability, urging Ban to appoint a special representative to monitor and report attacks on hospitals and healthcare personnel.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who was also in attendance at the meeting, said that Yemen and Syria were "the tip of the iceberg."

He noted that attacks on hospitals have been reported from Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Libya, among others.

"Health systems continue to disintegrate under the cumulative impact of violence leaving millions of people in highly fragile conditions," he said.

Ban called on the council to "take decisive steps" to implement the resolution on the protection of hospitals. "I urge you to overcome your divisions and meet your responsibilities in Syria and around the world," Ban said.

Last update: Thu, 29/09/2016 - 00:39
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