The provision and protection of health care in conflicts is foundational to international humanitarian law (IHL), and in every humanitarian emergency, health workers represent a vital cadre of responders. Yet flagrant violations of these protections and commitments continue in war zones, and health workers can face threats not just from armed actors, but from aid recipients and their communities acting out of fear, misperception, or grievance.
Recent surges in attacks against health personnel, from ‘double-tap’ strikes on medics in Syria to assaults and shootings of Ebola workers in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), helped make 2019 the worst year on record for aid worker casualties. This year’s Aid Worker Security Report therefore focuses on humanitarians working in the health sector. We examine the data on attacks against health workers and discuss how the humanitarian sector is dealing with the new risks and disruptions caused by major epidemics occurring in contexts of broader complex emergency.