Protecting healthcare workers, Syria and other conflict zones

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Country: Syria

One of the targets of SDG 16 is to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere. ICN is very active in protecting the rights of nurses and other healthcare workers to safely provide care to populations without threat to their physical or mental well-being.

In May 2016, ICN signed a joint statement by member of the Health Care in Danger initiative, calling on the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution to protect healthcare workers. The statement urged Security Council member states to reaffirm international humanitarian law and adopt specific measures for the protection of healthcare. It also called for governments to review and, where necessary, introduce domestic legislation to prevent violence against patients, healthcare personnel, facilities, and medical vehicles.

In August 2016, ICN joined with the World Medical Association to condemn the continuing violence against health personnel in Syria and other nations, stating that the persistent and targeted attacks on doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel and other health workers in Syria have reached unprecedented levels that should alarm the world. [i]

In December 2016, ICN renewed a joint call for access to healthcare of wounded and sick during an armed conflict to be respected and protected, and for attacks on health personnel and facilities to stop. [ii]

The Health Care in Danger initiative, with the support of experts and professionals from different backgrounds, including those working on the frontline, governments, the armed forces, humanitarian agencies, international professional associations and health-care services, as well as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has formulated a substantive body of recommendations and identified practical measures that, if implemented by all those concerned, would increase the protection of health-care services in armed conflict or other emergencies.

In addition to supporting the Health Care in Danger initiative, ICN is a founding member of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, which promotes respect for international humanitarian and human rights laws that relate to the safety and security of health facilities, health workers, ambulances and patients ensuring they are safe and secure during periods of armed conflict or civil violence.

ICN is also a member of the steering committee and scientific committee of the International Conference on Violence in the Health Sector.


[i] International Council of Nurses and World Medical Association Physician and Nursing Leaders condemn Syrian Attacks on Health Personnel. 2016: Geneva.

[ii] International Council of Nurses and Health Care in Danger Initiative, Everyone, wounded or sick during an armed conflict, has the right to health care. 2016.

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