NURSES PROMOTING HEALTHCARE, Not warfare
Healthcare is a basic human right, and nurses and midwives are at the forefront of health delivery.
Nurses and midwives devote themselves to caring for parents and children, give lifesaving immunizations and health advice, look after the elderly and generally meet essential health needs. They are often the first and only point of care in communities.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives in order to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
To help achieve these goals, the WHO has designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
May 12 is celebrated each year as International Nurses Day. It falls on the birthday of our most famous nurse, Florence Nightingale.
2020 is noteworthy as the year when the COVID-19 pandemic captured the attention of the world. At the same time, 2020 has seen growing international military tensions. Of particular concern, nuclear weapons treaties are increasingly cast aside by the US and Russia. and the use of these weapons, by accident or design, could destroy civilisation in just one brief exchange.
Nurses’ Role in Peace and Conflict
Armed conflict is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, with both direct and indirect health impacts. War causes violent deaths, and injury, the breakdown of health systems, reduced access to clean water and sanitation, increased incidence of communicable diseases, psychosocial impacts, malnutrition - and the list goes on.
Nurses and midwives play a critical role in health promotion, disease prevention and the delivery of care in all settings, including warfare. Health workers such as nurses and midwives are ideally placed as advocates for peace because of their professional and ethical position within communities.
On 23rd March the UN Secretary António Guterres appealed for a global ceasefire to help combat the global Covid 19 pandemic and drew attention to wartime suffering that is being accompanied by the destruction of health systems and displacement of vulnerable people.
Millions of people around the world are supporting his appeal.
Expenditure on Warfare and Health
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that global military spending in 2019 was US$1,917 billion, representing the largest annual increase since 2010. On nuclear weapons alone – the most destructive weapons of all - the world spent over US$100 billion per annum.
In 2017, the World Health Organisation estimated that the cost of achieving key health targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) in 67 low and middle income developing countries. The resultant estimated costs were an initial US $134 billion annually , increasing over time to $371 billion annually by 2030- less than a fifth of global military spending.
For these sums, targets would be reached by 2030 in SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (healthy lives and well-being for all), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy). Reaching these targets would most certainly achieve greater health, stability and resilience in some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. This would increase world security far more than extravagant spending on nuclear weapons and other military expenditure.
Nurses Making a World Impact
Nurses and midwives everywhere, guided by their principles of beneficence and equity have a powerful role in changing the world for the better.
To help celebrate International Nurses Day, May 12, in 2020, the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, MAPW invites nurses, midwives and all healthcare workers to join us in working for Healthcare not Warfare. We urge support also for the statement of IPAN (The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network) for Healthcare Not Warfare.
Dr Amanda J Ruler, RN, BA (Hons), MACN, Grad Dip Gerontological Nursing, PhD. SA Branch Convenor and National Vice President, MAPW (Australia).