Strengthening civil health protection in Mali

Two former Mali rebel leaders, Atay Ag Mohamed, left, and Mohamed El Mouled Ramadan, right, join Geneva Call’s Director-General, Alain DeLetrose, center, at a signing ceremony in Geneva for a Deed of Commitment to Protect Health Care in Armed Conflict

Leaders of a coalition of Tuareg and former Arab rebels in Mali have signed a written pledge on civilian protection of health and medical facilities during armed conflict, reflecting global efforts to halt attacks on health facilities, transportation and patients that have become more frequent since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

The two leaders signed with the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) deed of commitment On protecting health care in armed conflict At a closed ceremony organized by a humanitarian organization based in Switzerland, Geneva CallFriday.

Geneva Call Director General Alain DeLetrose and two members of the Capital Markets Authority’s Steering Committee, Atay Ag Mohamed and Mohamed Al Mouloud Ramadan, confirmed their pledges to enforce civilian protection through commitment deed, The humanitarian organization said in a statement that this represents a milestone in the humanitarian dialogue between Geneva Call and the Capital Market Authority over the past four years.

Despite the “diversity of opinions on some social issues, the CMA can agree on a document that includes the main topics of international humanitarian law,” Attaye Ag Mohamed said, adding that the coalition benefited from Geneva Call’s support and expertise.

“Recognizing the importance of the freedom of movement of medical missions and their access to population targets and vice versa, the CMA can only make its modest contribution to their protection as well as to the protection of humanitarian convoys in Mali and in particular in the north,” Mohamed said.

“The signing of this commitment thus indicates a new phase of cooperation,” he said. “It is up to all of us to use it more widely in this field by raising awareness and training on this important topic.”

The CMA has pledged to respect international laws that insist on protecting “health care workers, facilities and medical transports, the wounded and sick”, and adhere to “principles of medical ethics”.

Geneva Call It works to strengthen Protection of civilians during armed conflicts in dozens of countries. The issue of protecting healthcare workers and health facilities has become more pressing in conflicts and wars around the world, including in Syria and Ukraine.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that More than 700 healthcare workers and patients have diedSince December 2017, more than 2,000 have been injured in attacks on health facilities in 17 countries affected by emergencies and fragile settings. Countries at risk included Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, Mozambique, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Myanmar and the Central African Republic.

The three-year analysis is based on data from WHO System for Monitoring Attacks on Health Care (SSA)which monitors attacks on health care workers, patients, facilities, health care transportation, and the resources they have impacted, and their direct impact on health workers and patients.

Working behind the scenes to protect civilians

Geneva Call has extraordinary powers to persuade armed groups and actually The authorities must respect and apply humanitarian standards and human rights.

These include hostilities, child protection, education, food security, health care and cultural heritage, prohibition of sexual and gender-based violence, forced displacement, and humanitarian access.

The Geneva-based humanitarian organization where I worked About 25 countries since 2000It also promotes the protection of civilians by strengthening local civil society organizations and their awareness of international humanitarian standards.

As a result, as stated in the report, some armed groups have established their own monitoring bodies for humanitarian and human rights standards, trained their senior leadership and field commanders in the effective implementation of these commitments, and facilitated international access to the flow of humanitarian aid.

The CMA was created in 2014 as a coalition of politico-military movements composed of MNLA/MAA/HCUA, located in Mali in the regions of Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, Taoudine and Ménaka. In 2015, the CMA signed a peace and reconciliation agreement in Algiers with the Malian government.

Four years of work to protect civilians in Mali

Geneva Call began working to improve the protection of civilians in Mali in 2018.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Geneva Call says it has worked in Mali to ensure access to health care and promote respect for humanitarian standards and military code of conduct.

Two armed groups in Mali previously signed pledges to the Geneva-based organization to provide access to health care and try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

At the signing ceremony, DeLetroz said attacks on hospitals, medical transport and health workers have increased in conflict areas in recent years, paralyzing emergency services and disabling local populations – with devastating effects on the lives of staff and patients, both civilians and wounded and targeted combatants. Because they are among the most vulnerable.

“Unfortunately, Mali is not immune to this trend,” he said. “The deterioration of the security situation has also been reflected in the increasing difficulties the population faces in accessing health care centers and the targeting of health workers on a regular basis.”

He said that the instrument of commitment with the Capital Markets Authority is “of paramount importance”, as it “represents an important step in the humanitarian dialogue initiated four years ago by the Geneva Call and the members of the Coordination of Movements in Azawad.”

On the part of the Capital Markets Authority, the coalition affirmed that it will work to improve the protection of civilians in general and the respect and protection of health structures and medical missions during armed conflicts in particular. The Canton of Geneva is the legal guardian of the document, the first document signed with Geneva Call in Mali since I started working there.

And on the Geneva Call side, there is also a commitment, Deletroise said, that the organization will continue to work with the CMA to honor its commitments under a jointly developed implementation plan.

“We also hope that this signing will serve as an encouragement to all financial stakeholders who have a role and responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians,” he said. “For Geneva Call, concerns remain about the situation of the population affected by this conflict.”

Image credits: Geneva Call.

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