There could not have been a more illustrative example to understand why peace is critical for health. One year to the date since the invasion of Ukraine, there have been 802 verified attacks on healthcare, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, resulting in the death of 101 health workers and patients.
The physical scars of war may get captured in statistics. But what of the mental scars of people living in such man-made strife-ridden environments — witnessing the destruction of their homes, the death and displacement of their families, children, and pets.
“The war is exacerbating health needs, including for mental health and psychosocial support; rehabilitation; treatment for chronic diseases and others such as cancer, HIV and tuberculosis; and vaccinations for measles, polio and pneumonia and Covid-19,” WHO’s chief, said last week, as the world observed the Ukraine invasion anniversary, with the realisation that Covid-19 is not yet a closed case.
Against this backdrop comes the natural calamity of multiple earthquakes leaving over 47,000 dead in Turkey and Syria. Between these multiple emergencies, health workers are stretched and could benefit if governments worked together to put more money into delivering healthcare and researching solutions, accessible to citizens of the world, and not just the highest paying one. This is a form of strategic defence spending, an investment in the health of people who eventually contribute to the well-being of society.
The Covid-19 pandemic alone, touched lives, as people delayed their child’s immunisation or put off cancer treatment to another day. But Covid, earthquakes and a war — it’s a world of “converging and overlapping crises” (to quote the WHO chief). A stronger than ever reason to give peace a chance — so administrators can focus on delivering good healthcare.