Is health a bridge-for-peace or a tool of war?

4 July 2022 – Mukesh Kapila

Photo by Alexander Kovalev on

We have a record number of deadly and no-holds-barred conflicts raging around the world ranging from endless wars such as in Syria and Yemen, and grinding civil wars such as in Ethiopia’s Tigray and in Myanmar. As well as smouldering ones such as in Afghanistan. And, of course, new vicious wars as by Russia in Ukraine.  

In all such armed conflicts, civilians and civilian infrastructure are invariably directly targeted. That happens despite numerous laws and norms to limit the human cost of wars.

The 75th World Health Assembly of ministers from 194 countries gathered in Geneva on May 22-28 under the theme of “health for peace, peace for health”.  This triggered my latest piece below.

Can health be a bridge-for-peace by appealing to our innate humanitarian and moral instincts or is it, in practice, a tool of war? Are trusted healthcare workers in a good position to become peacemakers or are they easily subverted as the naive pawns of violent politics? There are some tricky issues here in relation to the neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian healthcare in conflict settings.

First published by The National on 24 June 2022, you can read my piece here: “Should doctors be the new diplomats?”

Published by Mukesh Kapila


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