|Handbook on War and Public Health (ICRC, 1996, 470 p.)|
Training health personnel has always been a priority for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In 1986, together with the World Health Organization and the University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine, the Medical Division at the ICRC organized the first H.E.L.P. (Health Emergencies in Large Populations) course.
Since then, the course has taken place each year at the Faculty of Medicine in Geneva and it has developed along two lines. First and foremost, it has been decentralized. Courses are now held in Costa Rica (S.O.S. - Salud en Operaciones de Socorro), in Belgium (S.O.S. - Santé dans les Opérations de Secours), in the Philippines and in Thailand. The course has also been included in university syllabuses, namely at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health (Baltimore, USA) and at the Institute of Public Health in Budapest.
This Handbook sums up the concepts, ideas and views which were studied during the twenty or so courses organized to date. It is an invaluable aid for all health personnel who have to take public health decisions as part of their humanitarian work.
The technical considerations involved in decision-making are considered in light of the constraints inherent in emergency situations, especially armed conflicts, where implementing a public health policy is often a real challenge.
The reader may be surprised not to find any universally applicable solutions in the Handbook, but he must bear in mind that its aim is to provide health personnel with guidelines on how to react to the specific health problems arising from any given situation.
We hope that the Handbook will help improve health care in humanitarian operations and, in a more general sense, protect the victims more effectively.
Dr Rémi Russbach
Chief Medical Officer