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Medical civil–military interactions on United Nations missions: lessons from South Sudan
  1. Simon Horne1,2 and
  2. D S Burns3,4
  1. 1 Conflict and Health Research Group, King's College London, London, UK
  2. 2 Academic Department of Military Emergency Medicine, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Department of Infection and Tropical Medicine, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4 Academic Department of Military Medicine, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Simon Horne, Conflict and Health Research Group, King's College London, London WC2R 2LS, UK; psihorne{at}


This paper outlines the United Nations’ integrated response to complex humanitarian emergencies and the different types of interactions that may occur between militaries and civilian organisations involved in them. It uses a recent UK deployment to South Sudan as an example, drawing on the experience to highlight areas of particular interest to healthcare workers. It identifies several domains that should usefully be developed for both civilians and military personnel in these environments—including sharing our expertise in major incident management, proof-of-concept testing for novel diagnostic and treatment solutions and offering to engage in joint continuing medical education. These gaps in organisational policy should be addressed and appropriate training pathways designed to maximise the contribution of the Defence Medical Services in similar contexts in the future.

  • civil-military
  • humanitarian
  • defence engagement
  • United Nations

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  • Contributors SH developed the concept. SH and DSB contributed equally to the writing of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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