Wounded and sick

The “wounded and sick” are protected individuals under international humanitarian law (IHL) as individuals, either military or civilian, who are in need of medical care and who refrain from any act of hostility. IHL also protects medical support services (personnel and equipment) caring for the wounded and sick. In return, medical personnel can never participate in hostilities, must care for all the wounded impartially, and must be identifiable by an emblem.

Military exercise by Afghan National Army rescuing wounded civilian

Photo: Afghan National Army Sgt. Rahmudeen Nangarhari/DVIDSHUB

Key actors

Provides medical humanitarian assistance to persons affected by armed conflict and other major violence

Provides medical humanitarian assistance to victims of conflict, natural disasters, epidemics, or healthcare exclusion

Provides first aid and emergency response, epidemic control, and programs in health promotion and prevention

An operational program of WHO, working on prevention, preparedness, early warning, response, and early recovery for health emergencies

Key references

On the protection and obligations of the wounded and sick, medical personnel, and wounded and sick prisoners of war under IHL and customary IHL

On surgery in times of conflict, including the epidemiology of victims of war, the chain of casualty care, hospital triage of mass casualties, and first aid


Health Care in Danger (HCID) is an initiative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement aimed at addressing the issue of violence against patients, health workers, facilities and vehicles, and ensuring safe access to and delivery of health care in armed conflict and other emergencies.

An initiative of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) following the attack on their trauma centre in Kunduz to stop attacks on healthcare workers, facilities, and patients.

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