Research for stronger health systems during and after crisis

Would you risk your life to save another? ReBUILD reflects on the dangers that health workers face in conflict situations during World Health Worker Week

Tuesday, 02 Apr 2013

Working in Northern Uganda during 20 years of conflict, this was exactly the choice that many health workers faced every day. When a bad day at the office means not returning home to your family, it takes an inconceivable level of motivation to get up and travel to work. Last week I interviewed Dr Andrew Ocero, now studying at LSTM, who worked in a hospital in Lira, Northern Uganda during the conflict. I asked him what made him and other health workers stay at great personal risk. He said, 

"It was difficult for health workers at the time. Some were posted to health facilities much more dangerous than Lira, in known rebel zones. They were very courageous to go to their posts. One time when I was working in the hospital, we heard rumours that rebels were in town. You became acclimatised to this, and it became normal. What was important was the patient in front of you, if you could save a life; you were doing your job. That is what was important, that is why we stayed. The choice was simple. " 

Dr Ocero worked with a team of health workers that included nurses, paramedical officers and support staff. Together they risked their lives for the health of their patients. His words reflect the selfless attitude of many of the health workers posted in Northern Uganda during the years of conflict. Since peace was declared in 2006, the country is working to rebuild its health services in the north. This week we celebrate World Health Worker Week. At ReBUILD we recognise the challenges that many health workers in post conflict Northern Uganda still face and we would like to honour them. 

Helen McFarlane, Research Uptake Manager for the ReBUILD Consortium