Advocating for health and humanity: a physician’s call to action amidst conflict

The unfolding events in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank present a complex and deeply concerning situation. The entire area is smaller than the state of Vermont. My experiences in the West Bank, supported by a U.S. Scholar Fulbright award, have given me firsthand insight into the disruptions faced by individuals in these regions. The war may be focused in Gaza, but routine life is also disrupted in the West Bank, impacting the ability to work, attend school, and leave one’s home.

The situation impacts everyone, including civilians and military personnel, each facing unique challenges and potential long-term effects such as PTSD and taps into the generational history of trauma in the region. As a physician, I see the importance of recognizing the human impact on all involved and advocating for health and well-being.

I engage in discussions with family physicians from various backgrounds, including those from the U.K. with experience in Palestine. Our conversations focus on health care in conflict zones and the necessity of a balanced approach that acknowledges the humanity of all affected. We often grapple with the complexities of finding solutions amid deep-rooted issues, emphasizing the health and mental health impacts of such conflicts.

Bioethicist Matthew Wynia discusses the role of health care professionals in conflict situations, highlighting the ethical imperative to save lives irrespective of circumstances: “Our primary responsibility is to save lives, regardless of the circumstances of injury. In conflict situations, our profession symbolizes the principle that every life is sacred.” This perspective is detailed in an article in JAMA.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War addresses the long-term consequences of war on health, underscoring the significant and lasting impact on physical, mental, and social well-being: “War’s physical, mental, and social health impacts are severe and enduring.” More can be read in their statement.

Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, draws attention to global human suffering and the common theme of undervaluing human life in crises worldwide: “Human rights emergencies worldwide, from Darfur to Ukraine, and from Afghanistan to Myanmar, share a common theme of undervaluing human life.” His thoughts are further explored in an article in The Guardian.

My U.K. colleagues advocate for a universal perspective in conflict resolution, stressing the importance of transcending individual identities and recognizing shared human values, with health care professionals leading the way in promoting dialogue and understanding: “Conflicts like Gaza’s transcend individual identities. It’s vital to adopt a perspective that recognizes shared human values.” Their call to action is published in the BMJ.

Therese Zink is a family physician and can be reached at her self-titled site,

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