Health-care needs of people affected by conflict: future trends and changing frameworks

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Viewpoint: Lancet 2010; 375: 341–45

In past decades, much progress has been made in responding to health-care needs of confl ict-affected populations. The evidence base for interventions addressing excess morbidity and mortality has expanded. Motivated by a disastrous response to the Rwanda genocide in 1994, the Sphere standards1 for service provision were developed, fostering quality and accountability on the basis of principles of do no harm.1 Overall, mortality has decreased in refugee camp settings.2 A new cluster approach to improve coordination of relief outside of refugee situations has been introduced. However, humanitarian space—physical locations that are safe from attack in a confl ict, respect for core humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality, and the ability of aid agencies to access and help civilians aff ected by confl ict—has shrunk substantially because of political polarisation and a perception by combatants that humanitarian assistance is merely an instrument of interference by foreign powers. These factors have had negative eff ects on the protection of both people aff ected by confl ict and humanitarian workers, and consequently have aff ected the ability of organisations to provide preventive and curative health services because of insecurity.

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