Health Care in Conflict

Populations affected by armed conflict experience severe public health consequences mediated by population displacement, food scarcity, and the collapse of basic health services. This often gives rise to complex humanitarian emergencies where aid agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are likely to offer assistance.

Conflict has both direct and indirect effects on people’s health and on the overall health system. There are also wider societal consequences and ethical issues, particularly the routine breaking of the Geneva Conventions.

Health care professionals play an important role in minimizing the adverse consequences of conflict, sometimes at a great personal cost. Violence against health-care workers and facilities in conflict areas is on the rise and is a humanitarian issue with widespread and long-term effects.

The consequences of modern day conflicts are felt all over the world, not only in the countries where they take place. People are forced to leave their homes and end up internally displaced, as refugees or as asylum seekers. In 2017, over 65 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide because of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations alone.

The sudden influx of asylum seekers and refugees is a challenge for any country, perhaps even a greater one for a small and homogeneous society like Iceland. The learning curve in the Icelandic health care system has been steep but necessary to be able to provide health care suitable for all.