Kashmir hospitals get red-cross signs amidst war threat

Kashmir hospitals get red-cross signs amidst war threat

Workers paint a Red Cross sign on the rooftop of a hospital in Srinagar. (Reuters Photo)

With tension between India and Pakistan escalating, hospitals in Kashmir have been asked to paint cross emblem atop, a move aimed at protecting health facilities from air strikes, as per international protocol.

On Tuesday, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar wrote a letter to state Roads and Buildings (R&B) department to paint “H” or “red-cross” signs over roofs of all health facilities under the medical college on “war footing,” sources said.

Following the directive, the exercise to paint the red-cross signs on rooftops was taken up in major hospitals in Srinagar, including SMHS, Lal Ded, Bone and Joints and other major hospitals. However, in peripheral hospitals, no such exercise had been started although an order has been issued by the administration. 

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An official in the health department said that most hospitals in border districts of Baramulla and Kupwara did not have any signage indicating the nature of the facility. “Whatever signs we had on rooftops have been eroded by weather vagaries,” he said and added that the frequent snowfall in many areas of the twin districts, close to LoC kept rooftops still under snow. 

“It is not possible to paint the rooftops right now,” he said.

The Health authorities have already initiated steps in this regard with Director Health Services Kashmir Dr Saleem Ur Rehman taking a lead by putting the hospitals in frontier areas like Karnah and Uri on high alert. The department has also issued Standard Operation Procedure (SoP) to the health institutions for operating during wars or war-like situations.

A top official in know of the protocol said: “Healthcare facilities for humans will bear a red cross encircled in white background, whereas psychiatric hospitals will have a white cross. The veterinary facilities will have to paint a blue cross on a white background.”  

The private hospitals and nursing homes will also have to get the rooftops painted out of their own expenses. A senior official said the exercise of painting rooftops with cross emblem is among the basic drills ahead of any apprehended war as it prevents airstrikes on such edifice.

According to international humanitarian law, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected and treated “should indicate these buildings or places by some particular and visible signs” and “in sieges and bombardments all necessary steps should be taken to spare as far as possible”.​