Doctors Should Be Helped To Do More To Help Children In Conflict

May 22, 1998

(Protecting children from armed conflict)

Doctors should do more to protect children in conflict, write Professor David Southall from North Staffordshire Hospital and Dr Kamran Abbasi, of the BMJ in this week's BMJ. They argue that doctors should lobby for the development of a UN force which goes beyond peacekeeping and is designed to protect children.

In 1996 there were 31 armed conflicts around the world and 24 of these were in countries with child (under five years) mortality rates of five per cent or more. Armed groups frequently and deliberately manipulate food supplies and target hospitals, health centres and health professionals. Over the past ten years, 90 per cent of casualties in armed conflicts have been civilians. Ten million children have been killed and four to five million seriously injured (usually without the use of analgesia, anaesthesia or surgical facilities to treat them). Twelve million children have been made homeless, more than one million orphaned and countless psychologically traumatised (during the Rwandan genocide, almost every girl aged over eight years was raped).

The authors suggest that doctors could develop long-term links with colleagues in disadvantaged countries and that study leave or early retirement would enable them to provide hands-on aid, education materials, medical equipment and moral support. They believe that these doctors should be supported by both employers and colleagues.


Dr Kamran Abbasi, Editorial Registrar, BMJ, Tavistock Square, London


Professor David Southall, Professor of Paediatrics, Academic Department of Paediatrics, North Staffordshire Hospital Centre, Stoke on Trent


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