NGO denounces UN for not halting attacks on hospitals

World | 29 Sep 2016 11:54 am

The U.N. Security Council came under sharp criticism Wednesday for its failure to implement a resolution aimed at protecting medical facilities and staff in conflict zones from Syria to Yemen and Afghanistan. 

The U.N.'s most powerful body held a meeting on health care in armed conflict that by coincidence began just hours after two hospitals on rebel-held Aleppo were bombed, highlighting the lack of action to protect them. 

Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, blamed the failure on "a lack of political will _ among member states fighting in coalitions, and those who enable them.'' She told the council that the failure is evident in hospital attacks since the resolution's adoption in May which have left civilians in war with "less, if any, access to life-saving medical care.'' 

"Many attacks ... are brushed off as mistakes,'' Liu said. "We reject the word 'mistake'. We denounce the deliberate and systemic failure of states to avoid attacking hospitals and to appropriately control their conduct of hostilities.'' 

In both Syria and Yemen, four of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council "are implicated in some way in these attacks,'' she said, a reference to Russia, the United States, Britain and France. 

Liu cited the destruction of an MSG hospital in Abs, Yemen in early August carried out by the Saudi-led coalition which killed 19 people, the fourth such attack on an MSF facility in the country. A week later, an MSF-supported hospital in Idlib, Syria was destroyed in repeated air strikes, killing four hospital staff and nine patients and cutting life-saving care to 70,000 people.-AP

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