ICRC's guide for health workers

A field surgical team for the International Committee of the Red Cross conducts an emergency operation on an injured combatant in a hospital in South Sudan. Photo by: © ICRC / T. Stoddart / www.icrc.org

An army officer tells you not to treat a wounded enemy. You’re being sent to a place that is highly insecure. Humanitarian workers face these challenges all the time.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is formally launching today (Jan. 21) its guide for health workers who face such difficult situations. It sets out their responsibilities and rights, especially when working in conflict settings, such as Syria and Mali.

Health workers may already be familiar with some of the points on the list, such as providing impartial care for the wounded and the sick. Here’s more, including those that health workers “should do if possible.”

  1. Don’t take “undue risks while discharging your duties.”

  2. Let family members know of a relative’s fate or whereabouts.

  3. Beware of counterfeit materials and medicines, especially during armed conflicts.

  4. “Do everything within your power to prevent reprisals against the wounded and sick or against health-care workers and facilities.”

  5. Don’t obey unlawful orders, especially those that go against health care ethics.

  6. Report outbreaks of any disease or condition.

  7. Don’t take part in any act of hostility.

  8. Report any unethical behavior to your superiors.

  9. Make yourself identifiable as a health worker. If possible, wear a distinctive emblem.

  10. Don’t experiment on the wounded and sick without their consent.

The Red Cross will host today an online discussion on the dilemmas health workers face on the ground. It will coincide with the launch of the publication.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.