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Global move to scale up response to violence

World Health Assembly commits to tackle the public health impact

Today, the World Health Assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution which recommends urgent action to stem the public health impact of violence globally. During deliberations on the Resolution representatives from WHO’s 192 Member States reflected on the devastating impact of violence on physical, mental and reproductive health and the vast amount of human and financial health resources required to respond to it.

“By adopting this resolution on violence and health, the world is rejecting the view that violence is inevitable,” said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the WHO.

Every day roughly 2200 people commit suicide, 1400 people die as a result of homicide and 850 people are killed as a result of war. Thousands more remain permanently disabled after acts of non-fatal violence. After discussing these and other findings of the World Health Organization’s ground breaking World report on violence and health, delegates stated their commitment to scale up the global response to violence.

The Resolution adopted today by the World Health Assembly calls for countries to develop national plans to ensure more targeted and co-ordinated action to prevent violence by all sectors of society. Further it calls for better data collection to ensure a more accurate description of the magnitude of the problem and who is most affected by it; improved services for victims of violence to ensure that when they contact health services victims receive not only treatment for injuries and diseases but also mental, social and legal support; and, a greater focus on addressing the root causes of violence.

"We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear," said Nelson Mandela in the foreword of the World report on violence and health. " We must address the roots of violence. Only then will we transform the past century’s legacy from a crushing burden into a cautionary lesson."

During the discussion countries described the initial actions they have taken in the context of WHO's Global Campaign for Violence Prevention launched with the Report. Since October, some 30 countries have held national policy discussions to plan the implementation of the Report’s recommendations. Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Jordan, the Russian Federation and South Africa are preparing national reports that will serve as a basis for developing their national policies. Other countries have initiated the development of national plans of action for violence prevention or created violence prevention networks. The Resolution provides an international basis to complement these initial steps with additional action.

"Public health has made some remarkable achievements in recent decades, particularly with regard to reducing rates of many childhood diseases" said Dr Brundtland. "However, saving our children from these diseases only to let them fall victim to violence, to the savagery of war and conflict, or to self-inflicted injuries, would be a failure of public health."

WHO will offer Member States full support to implement the Resolution. As a part of this, WHO is currently finalizing guidelines on how to prevent violence and strengthen services for victims.

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WHO Violence Prevention Posters Two series of posters -each depicting images relating to the various forms of violence – have been presented to delegates during the 56th World Health Assembly. The "Violence in Red" series portrays bold close-ups of parts of the human body tainted in red, symbolizing the impact of violence on the body and on health in general. The "Explaining Away Violence" series features victims of violence and the accounts they give to explain away their injuries, touching upon the shame and taboo which surround violence in many cultures. Currently printed in English, French and Spanish, the posters will be made upon request to ministries of health, NGOs and other organizations who would like to set up violence prevention campaigns for violence prevention campaigns.

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For more information contact:

Ms Laura Sminkey
Telephone: +41 22 791 4547
Mobile phone: +41 79 249 3520
E-mail: sminkeyl@who.int