Wars and armed conflicts resulting from political violence are among the most pressing issues of our time. The death toll of these wars in the twentieth century is estimated at 190 million. Numerous protracted and ongoing armed conflicts today have directly or indirectly impacted an unprecedented number of people, destroyed health systems, shattered societies and reversed decades of development. Global militarism, geopolitical competition, tyranny, unresolved social/community grievances, and inequalities, along with climate change, only mean more wars, casualties, innocent victims, and threats on healthcare in this century.
With the growing concern and increasing challenges facing healthcare in times of conflict, today more than ever, there's a need to reassess the global action mechanisms, encourage research, and support the generation of new effective notions providing a solid protective framework for healthcare during wars and armed conflicts.
Exercising its regional role as a knowledge hub and a leading research institution in health topics, the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) organized an expert strategic meeting at AUB with the aim to facilitate critical review and transformative thinking about the future of research and action on health and wars and armed conflicts.
The meeting brought together more than 20 eminent scholars and practitioners with relevant institutional and personal experiences in the area of health and wars and armed conflicts to identify and discuss the main health needs in an armed conflict setting, explore ways to address them, and agree on a way forward.
The specific objectives of this meeting included:
Discussing the changing demands on research, policy development, and practice in relation to the changing realities of wars and armed conflicts and the increasing complexity of the health dimensions of wars and conflicts;
Reviewing the 'state of the field', in terms of research and practice, of health and wars and conflicts and identify critical gaps, key priorities and important opportunities, and outline a way forward;
Exploring obstacles to and possible solutions for strengthening engagement and leadership of researchers and institutions in the Global South;
Reviewing the rationale for two proposed platforms to facilitate global dialogue and collaboration on health and wars and conflicts including The Lancet-AUB International Conference on Health and War/Armed Conflict in November 2018 and a global network for research and action on health and wars and conflicts
Through the multiple presentations and fruitful discussions during this event, the meeting offered a space for thoughtful reviews and critical discussions, while paving the way towards adopting strategic directions and planning for the next steps.
The main outcomes of this meeting will be compiled in a comprehensive and structured paper that is expected to be submitted to a referred journal focusing on the field of health in armed conflict.
The FHS at AUB, host of this meeting, is the oldest school of public health in the region (founded in 1954) as is its public health graduate program. FHS has lived through all the turmoil of Lebanon and the region, and has been deeply engaged with health issues in the area of research, policy development and practice. In this turbulent region, this also means engaging with the subject of health and armed conflicts. The Lancet-AUB Commission on Syria has been one of the most visible recent examples for such engagement. While the Commission has focused on the health dimensions of the Syrian conflict, many of these dimensions are themselves global in nature and are thus of direct interest to this meeting which had a global scope. The research and discussions within and related to the subjects and inquiry of the Commission have contributed to the observations made and questions raised in this meeting.
Finally, the meeting comes at an important juncture as the Commission prepares to issue its report during the International Conference on Health and Armed Conflict that will also be held at AUB in November 2018, while it prepares itself for the post-report phase in terms of implementation of the report's recommendations.