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The COVID-19 epidemic fuels attacks on healthcare workers around the world

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Two Nigerian nurses were attacked by the family of a dead COVID-19 patient. One of the nurses pulled out her hair and got a fracture. The second was beaten in a coma.

After the attack, nurses at the Federal Medical Center in Southwestern Ouo stopped treating patients, demanding that the hospital improve safety. It was almost two weeks before they returned to work with the armed guards around the clock.

“We do not give life. It is God who gives life. We only care or we succeed, ”said Francis Ajibola, Nigeria National Association of Nurses and Midwives.

The attack in Nigeria earlier this month was just one of a number of cases involving health workers during the COVID-19 epidemic worldwide. A new report by Insecurity Insight ի, a Berkeley Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care providers and institutions last year.

The researchers found that about 400 of those attacks were related to COVID-19, many out of fear or frustration, highlighting the dangers around health care workers when they are most in need. Insecurity Insight defines a health attack as any physical violence against healthcare workers or terrorists, such as using online news agencies, humanitarian groups, and social media messages to track incidents around the world.

“Our jobs in the emergency department, in the hospitals, have become more stressful, difficult, at an early stage, even when people are supporting us,” said Rohini Haar, an ombudsman at Oakland, California. “It’s heartbreaking for me to do that, to do it under duress, to attack, or for fear of being attacked.”

Medical professionals, from surgeons to paramedics, have long faced injuries or fears at work, especially in conflict zones. Experts say many attacks are rooted in fear or mistrust as family members respond to the death of a loved one or the community responds to uncertainty about illness. The coronavirus has increased that tension.

Ligia Cantin worked as a nurse in Mexico for 40 years, never feeling threatened until last spring. As he was leaving Merida Hospital in April, he heard someone shout the word “infected.” He was soaked in hot coffee before turning around.

“When I got home 10 minutes later, my daughter was waiting for me. I hugged her, crying, and everyone was scared, ‘How could they have done that to me?'” She told the Associated Press.

Cantin said many in Mexico at the time believed that health care workers in society wore the same uniforms they used to treat coronavirus patients. “It was ignorance that made them do that,” he said.

Researchers have seen the most attacks last spring and summer, when the coronavirus spread around the world. Recent events from Nigeria to the Netherlands, where rebels set fire to a coronavirus testing center in January, prove that the threat remains.

Haar said he expected health workers to be widely praised for their rescue work during the epidemic, just as the Italians paid tribute to doctors during the blockade.

“But in reality it did not happen in many, many places,” he said. “In fact, there is more fear, more mistrust, և attacks have increased rather than decreased.”

Many attacks go unnoticed because they are never reported to the police or the media. Insecurity Insight has sought to expand its monitoring as floods of attacks have been found in countries traditionally safe for health care workers, says Christina Will, director.

In the United States, for example, last year researchers counted about a dozen threats to health care workers. There have been several incidents of street workers being injured or arrested during grievous grievances.

“I think culture in the United States has put more trust in health care workers,” said Haar, an ambulance doctor. “There has not been a long-running conflict when there has been disagreement between the healthcare community.”

But health care workers in the United States are still at great risk. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital staff in the United States are about six times more likely than the average worker to be injured in a deliberate injury. The patient is dissatisfied with his treatment.

Misinformation has in some cases led to violence. Villa said his team had scrutinized social media posts in April after three Ebola treatment centers were looted in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We could actually see that within a few days there was a lot of misinformation about what they called the Ebola business, that it was all about people inventing the disease,” he said.

Experts say that while health workers are often targeted, entire communities suffer when they lose access to medical care after being forced out of a clinic or medical facility because of threats.

“You are robbing the community of the service they were supposed to provide,” said Nika Alexander, who oversees the World Health Organization’s communications on health emergencies.

With or without an epidemic, the most dangerous places for health care workers are often areas of conflict and political turmoil. Hundreds of threats of violence erupted last year in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Nasser Almhawish, the coordinator of the Syrian Early Warning Signal and Response Network, said he had been threatened several times while working as a doctor in Raqqa. He recalled in 2012 at the Al-Raqqa National Hospital the day gunmen confronted him in the middle of an operation, saying he would be killed if the patient died.

“You are just freezing, you know you are working, you are trying to save this boy,” he said. “It’s our duty. I did not ask if the boy was a military man or a civilian. “He is a man who needed surgery.”

Almhawish said such attacks on health facilities in Syria had weakened over the past year. Researchers say the decline in violence in the country was due to the fact that they did not see a greater increase in overall health attacks by 2020.

Canton, a nurse in Mexico, said he passed away almost eight months after the attack in April last year without exposing his nursing shrubs to the public. Now, a year after the epidemic, he feels that health care workers are more respected. But he is still worried.

“I was afraid to go out, to find a scratch on my car or to find broken car windows,” he said. “I have that fear because I have lived.”


Helen Wifering Roy W. He is a member of Howard. Osh Oshua House is investigating a global investigation team.


This report features journalists in the AP video Federica Narancio, Ann Daugertin, and Don Lum at the University of California, Berkeley Human Rights Research Laboratory.


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