Let us start, as many do every morning, with a croissant. Yet how many of us know about that familiar pastry’s association with one of history’s pivotal military victories? In 1683, when Habsburg forces outside Vienna defeated an invading Ottoman army, Viennese bakers were said to have celebrated by baking crescents, the symbol of the departing Muslim forces. If that battle had turned out differently, the Ottomans might have dominated the heart of Europe for the next centuries, and the region’s inhabitants would have become largely Muslim. Or consider some more recent examples: Imagine if the Axis powers, not the Allies, had won World War II—or the Soviet Union the Cold War.
Hopes were raised that such armed groups, fatigued after decades of fighting, were using the opportunity of the UN’s ceasefire call to wind up their fruitless revolutionary struggles.
This is Vladimir Putin’s forever war, and Russia, cursed as it has been so many times in its history with a terrible leader, will be fighting it for as long as Putin remains the master of the Kremlin.
The country’s seven-year civil war is systematically destroying its health-care system and fueling a public-health catastrophe.
International humanitarian workers and local health care providers are "literally being hunted down," Bruce Eshaya-Chauvin, medical adviser to the IFRC, said in a 2013 speech in London. Medical professionals face torture, abuse and kidnapping as they offer emergency medical care to the sick and wounded, along with some semblance of primary care for chronic and treatable conditions.
The field of global health has thoroughly investigated the physical and mental health consequences of violent conflict, yet there is a dire need for preventive research and action.
The WHO’s paper, published in the Lancet medical journal, says 22% of people living in conflict areas have depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Women are more likely to be affected than men and the burden rises with age.
Motivation for public health involvement in the prevention of war derives from the profession’s code of ethics, which affirms that public health focus on “principally the fundamental causes of disease and requirements for health, aiming to prevent adverse health outcomes.
On March 23, 2020, with the deadly coronavirus reported in 167 countries and territories, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global ceasefire to support a public health response. It was the first global ceasefire appeal since the agency was founded in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II. "The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war," Guterres said. "End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world."
Levy and Sidel, both former presidents of the American Public Health Association, as well as distinguished researchers and practitioners in their fields, make the point that, in the end, wars always come home. The most obvious casualties are the young men and women shattered in body and mind by the cauldron of battle itself, but the devastation includes the terrible things that organized violence inflicts on the population and infrastructure where those wars are fought.
While we have had laws of war for centuries, it is time, in an increasingly globalized world plagued by public health emergencies, for laws of prevention. Public health protections are a human right. What can one say to an emerging global society’s credibility that it has the tools to wage wars but not to prevent them?
If you ask this question out loud, not a minute will pass before someone says ‘Margaret Thatcher,’ the British prime minister who waged a hugely popular war in the Falklands that led to her landslide 1983 election victory. Thatcher is hardly the only woman leader celebrated for her warmongering.
Armed conflict has long meant tragedy but has also contributed to the emergence of everything from penicillin and highways to universal suffrage and the welfare state
Conflict and Health is a highly-accessed, open access journal documenting the public health impacts and responses related to armed conflict, humanitarian crises and forced migration.