Long-lasting and ongoing continuous conflicts have consequences not only for people who are injured by war but for the health and well-being of entire populations. The destruction of the environment and infrastructure, as a result of conflict, has a severe impact on a population’s resilience and susceptibility to a health crisis. As an example, armed conflict has devastating effects on sanitation infrastructures which leads to limited water supply, damaged sewage systems, displacement and subsequently crowded living environments. These all create conditions in which communicable diseases can grow, like the dengue fever in Yemen. Intensified by ongoing conflict and violence, this places countries such as Yemen on the brink of collapse. Insufficient medical supplies, financial resources and lack of health personnel are the typical outcomes of conflict due to damages done to health infrastructure.
It is not a coincidence that fragile countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo where health systems have been further destabilized by conflicts have had health crises in recent years, in this case, with the Ebola virus. Consequently, health systems that are already strained are then placed under further pressure. With the resulting instability within such environments in developing countries, conflict makes it more challenging for overseas health workers to gain access to the populations in need. This happens as a result of poor authority, displacement, lack of security, and legal and administrative restrictions.
Over the years, to advance the distribution of health services in conflict-affected areas, global health organisations and humanitarian health workers have developed health policies, strategies, structures and frameworks. The international health response, despite these improvements, still has a lot of hurdles and challenges to overcome. Brazil’s government was very late to enforce a national lockdown for the current COVID-19 pandemic, whereby organised crime gangs have imposed their own lockdown in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro via curfews to stop the virus from spreading. These drug trafficking gangs, however, are also involved in regular shootouts with police forces, which unfortunately result in thousands of killings every year.
The healthcare systems in Latin and Central America, such as in Venezuela, have been enormously impacted by their current political and economic crises. The lack of policies for disease prevention and a deteriorated primary care system contributes to the most severe outcomes of the health crisis. While the global community remains attentive and ready to react to its potential collapse, action must be taken by a new government to delivering the right to health by the ever-present fear of violence.
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