New WHO Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care

Photo: Permanent Mission of Norway/Alexandra Solheim

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a key role to play in collecting data on attacks against health workers, facilities and vehicles. On 1 March 2018, the Permanent Mission of Norway organised a meeting where WHO introduced its new data collection system.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Hans Brattskar emphasised that attacks on health care seem to be a growing humanitarian and global health problem. He further underlined that a better understanding of the scope and nature of attacks on health care is a pre-condition for an effective response to this problem. 

The meeting featured a presentation by Dr Rudi Coninx and Ms Carolyn Briody of the WHO’s Attacks on Health Care project. They introduced the new data collection mechanism, the Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA), which was launched in December 2017. 

Through this project, WHO formalises and strengthens its efforts to minimise disruptions to health care due to violence. The project also works to enhance collaboration with key member states and partners. The data collection mechanism has already been rolled out in six countries. In the coming months, it will be rolled out in several additional countries in Africa, the Middle East/Asia and Eastern Europe. 

WHO’s objective is to have a global reporting system to systematically collect data on health care attacks in a real-time and collaborative database.

A number of questions were discussed during the meeting, including how to define attacks on health care, how to ensure coherence in reporting, how to safeguard the new data collection mechanism against distributing false information, and how to ensure confidentiality in the collection of sensitive information. 

Several of the participants commended the WHO for the initiative, noting that the new data collection mechanism will provide a solid basis of actionable information and evidence-based recommendations. It was also noted that other organisations can use this data, and contribute towards ending attacks on health care.