A region of protracted conflict: the perennial template of suffering

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is a catastrophe. Sixteen years of blockade has left Gaza in a fragile humanitarian state. However, the current conflict is one of many humanitarian disasters that has afflicted the region since the Arab Awakening in 2011; protracted conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Sudan have destroyed health systems and eroded the capabilities of citizens and governments. Human development and health indicators have mostly stalled.

Sadly, when reporting on the health situation in conflict-affected countries across the Middle-East and North Africa, a common template of suffering has evolved:  mass casualties and displacement, a lack of medical supplies, and egregious breaches of international humanitarian law, with the direct targeting of civilians and healthcare infrastructure. Health, mortality and injury statistics have become politicised; warring parties and international donors do not trust routine information systems even though multilateral organisations such as WHO have been using them for years. In Syria 2014, the international community even stopped counting those killed and injured as no verification method was deemed trustworthy. Truth and now statistics really are the first casualties of war, it seems.

*Pity the region is a reference to the poem of Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran ‘Pity the Nation’