Doctors and Parliamentarians Address Health Impact of Gun Violence at the United Nations
“On an average day in the United States 86 people are killed by guns,” was one of many alarming facts presented by Dr. Bill Durston, a passionate IPPNW speaker at a June 17th panel conducted by IPPNW, the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons and IANSA at the United Nations (U.N.) in New York City. The panel focused on how guns affect health and development around the world, and was a well-attended side event at the U.N. Fifth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider Implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA) on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Improving the Health of the PoA featured Dr. Durston as well as Dr. Emeka Okolo from IPPNW-Nigeria, and parliamentarians Daisy Tourné, Uruguay, and Christer Winbäck, Sweden, who both emphasized the importance of health professionals working with policy makers to stem the tide of hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of injuries each year from firearm violence. Dr. Okolo described his research on small arms injuries in Nigeria, and how armed violence is hampering the delivery of health care in his country and enabling terrorists. Two other IPPNW speakers recounted their stories as gun violence victims – Dr. Ogebe Onazi from Nigeria, and a high school participant from IPPNW who was caught in a crossfire of bullets on his way to the store when he was seven.
IPPNW distributed our white paper How Healthy is the PoA? Doctors take the pulse of progress, which include snapshots of the U.S., Mexico, Nigeria and Austria regarding levels of violence and gun violence, as well as observations on worldwide deaths and injuries from armed violence since the PoA was implemented in 2001.
The weeklong PoA was convened as required to allow states to report on progress regarding implementation of the PoA, as well as refine future goals. Chairman Zahir Tanin from Afghanistan noted, “Around the world, illicit small arms and light weapons are creating obstacles to development, peace, and security. The human cost is massive.”
IPPNW fielded an active delegation of ten people who included: from the U.S., Dr. Bill Durston and his wife Diane from California, Dr. Shannon Gearhart from New York PSR, Dr. Don Mellman and Kay Tyler from Florida, and Maria Valenti from the Central Office; from Nigeria, Drs. Ogebe Onazi and Emeka Okolo; from Zambia, Dr. Bob Mtonga; and from India, Dr. Balkrishna Kurvey. We met with delegations from the U.S., Nigeria, Zambia, India and others to share our expertise with policy makers.