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World Medical Association [WMA]
International Council of Nurses (ICN)
International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)


World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA)

WHPA Expresses Concern that Health Professionals are Being Prevented from Reaching Those in Need of Care

Nurses, pharmacists and physicians speak up at the
58th Human Rights Commission

Geneva, 15 April 2002 - In a joint statement to the 58th session of the Commission on Human Rights, the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) express their deep distress over the global violation of human rights, particularly in the current situation in the Middle East. The WHPA statement emphasises serious concern that the role of nurses, pharmacists and doctors is being undermined and their ethical and professional obligation to care for all is compromised. It is unacceptable that health professionals and emergency services are threatened at gunpoint and prevented from reaching those in need of assistance and care. Such conduct jeopardizes the life-saving work of emergency health care services and contravenes international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian persons in Time of War of 1949 and the rules governing the conduct of hostilities.

Health professionals are obliged by their respective Codes of Professional Ethics to care for all regardless of creed, colour, gender, race, religion or political affiliation. Yet they are being prevented from tending to those in need of care and even being themselves victimized for providing care to those in pain and suffering.

The UN General Assembly Resolution 37/194 spells out the ethical principles relevant to the role of health personnel in safeguarding human rights. WHPA believes that access to health care is a fundamental human right. Nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other health personnel have a moral and professional obligation to provide impartial care to all people.

However WHPA is deeply disturbed that in a growing number of countries, health personnel are often prevented from providing care, and themselves imprisoned, attacked and tortured for rendering lifesaving services. 

Finally, the World Health Professions' Alliance calls on the Commission on Human Rights, governments, NGOs and others:

To affirm access to health care as a fundamental human right of all individuals that should be unrestricted during political upheavals.

To condemn the denial of access to health care to people based on their gender or political, geographic, racial or religious affiliations.

To provide protection for health personnel against reprisals for providing care to all including detainees, prisoners and victims of torture.

To support the right of health professionals to practise within their professional code of ethics, and to ensure their personal safety, freedom from abuse, reprisals, threats or intimidation.

To uphold the UN General Assembly Resolution 37/194 on the role of health personnel in the protection of prisoners and detainees against torture and other inhuman treatment.




The World Health Professions Alliance brings together medicine, nursing and pharmacy through their representative international organisations, International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the World Medical Association (WMA) and represents more than 20 million health professionals worldwide.


  • The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of 125 national nurses' associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide.  Operated by nurses for nurses since 1899, ICN is the international voice of nursing and works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

  • The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) is the worldwide federation of national associations of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists. Pharmacists are health care professionals dedicated to improving access to and value of appropriate medicine use worldwide.   

  • The World Medical Association (WMA) is a global federation of national medical associations, representing the millions of physicians worldwide.  Acting on behalf of physicians and patients, the WMA endeavours to achieve the highest possible standards of medical science, education, ethics and health care for all people.


For further information contact Linda Carrier-Walker Tel :  +41 22  908 0100;
fax :   +41 22  908 0101;  email:  ; Web site  www.icn.ch 

PR/02 #06


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