Three University of Southampton academics are at the heart of a new global network to bring together academic institutions, NGOs and charities around the world to tackle a desperate need for better healthcare in war and conflict.
Attacks on healthcare are now a feature of modern warfare. Between 2016 and 2020, the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition documented over 4,000 incidents with almost 1,000 health facilities damaged or destroyed, almost 700 health workers killed, and more than 400 kidnapped.
The Global Alliance on War, Conflict and Health was officially launched at an event in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday 1 July 2022, to tackle this.
Professor James Batchelor, Director of the Clinical Informatics Research Unit, is one of three Co-Chairs of the new alliance – and the only UK university representative on the Executive Board. Dr Rebecca Brown, Research Fellow in Medicine, and Dr Jack Denny, Research Fellow in Engineering, are Co-Executive Directors of the Alliance’s Secretariat.
It is Southampton’s expertise in blast injuries and in coordinating international collaborative work that has drawn the trio to the alliance.
Dr Brown and Dr Denny set up the International Blast Injury Research Network (IBRN) in 2019. Dr Brown explained: “A lot of blast injury work is done by engineers or clinicians. The IBRN was set up to bring engineers and clinicians together to address real-world problems and to focus on the humanitarian side.”
Also in 2019, the Global Alliance on War, Conflict and Health was being conceptualised by Samer Jabbour, Professor of Public Health Practice at the American University of Beirut, amongst others. Professor Jabbour contacted Professor Batchelor, having heard about the IBRN.
The Alliance currently consists of about 100 institutional members, including other UK academic institutions the London School of Tropical Health and Hygiene, Queen Mary College, the University of Manchester and Kings College London.
Dr Brown, who will be in Beirut for the launch event alongside Professor Batchelor and Dr Denny, said: “Our role as an institution is to support the Alliance over the first year and get some of the big funding initiatives going, as well as setting up the governance and membership structures, setting the agenda for the next three to five years, and applying for funding.
“The aim of the alliance is to improve healthcare in war and conflict – not just direct injuries caused by war, and not just blast injuries, but everything from refugee camps and issues with continuing normal health care in those circumstances, as people in such camps still give birth, and have many many healthcare needs – and the right to healthcare.”
The Alliance’s mission focuses on the research behind improving this healthcare, on developing sustainable programmes, and on bringing different organisations together to work towards common goals.