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Frontline stories: risks faced by health workers

Time (GMT +01) 13:00 14:30

Contributing chair

Christina Bennett @cr_bennett - Head, Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI


Marwa Aljunaid @msf_yemen - Medical coordinator assistant, Médecins Sans Frontières Yemen (via videolink from Yemen)

Leigh Daynes @LeighDOTW - Executive Director, Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) UK

Grace Kargbo @WorldVisionWARO - Operations Director, World Vision Sierra Leone (via videolink from Sierra Leone)

Leonard Rubenstein @lenrubenstein - Chair, Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (via videolink from the United States)


From armed conflicts to health epidemics, many frontline health workers operate in harsh environments which come at a high cost to their physical and psychological well-being. According to the Safeguarding Health Care Coalition, attacks on health workers, including threats, harassment, intimidation, assaults, and, in some cases, kidnapping, occurred a staggering in 23 countries last year. The latest data from the Aid in Danger project Incident Trends show that in the first six months of 2017, a further 62 health workers were attacked across 13 countries.

In all crises, national and local actors are the most affected. They consistently face the risks of violence, infection and pressures related to working in environments lacking infrastructure and supplies. During the Ebola crisis, health workers were between 21 and 32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola than people in the general adult population. In Syria, where health workers were working in besieged conflict areas, many resorted to work in difficult environments, including underground and improvise healthcare facilities when shelling restarts. In El Salvador, four health workers were reportedly sexually assaulted by gang members.

What are the risks health workers face when responding to crises? What needs to be done in the future to better protect them? Ahead of World Humanitarian Day and the memorial event for humanitarian aid workers at Westminster Abbey, join us to discuss how we can better address this issue. 


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