WONCA Special Interest Group: Conflict & Catastrophe Medicine

Conflict & Catastrophe Medicine

A new WONCA Special Interest Group on Conflict & Catastrophe Medicine was approved by the WONCA Executive in January 2015.

General membership is open to interested family doctors. For more information email convenor

Convenor / Chair

Convenor: Prof Rich Withnall (UK)

email convenor

Rich is the UK Defence Professor of General Practice & Primary Care at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham. He is a GP Advisor to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and the Royal College of General Practitioners’ Medical Director for International Accreditation and Training. He has delivered hands-on clinical care in times of war and humanitarian crisis, winning both the Brooke-Popham and Sir Michael Howard Prizes for work supporting UK military helicopter aircrew. Following his doctorate at King’s College London studying operational stress and resilience, he retains a keen clinical and research interest in community mental health. He has worked in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, the Falkland Islands, Ghana, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Romania, the United States and Uruguay.

Co-Convenor or other office bearers

Executive Members

Membership Open?

Vision and Mission of WONCA SIG on Conflict & Catastrophe Medicine


The aims of the SIG  on Conflict and Catastrophe medicine are to:

a. Generate networks that help to develop the specialist medical, public health, leadership and managerial competencies required at the scenes of major man-made and natural disasters.

b. Provide a wider appreciation of the opportunities and constraints associated with challenging operational environments, partnerships with international organisations, and varying degrees of host nation support.

c. Provide an invaluable forum for an exchange of knowledge and information between member organisations’ GPs/FDs.

d. Enable the global educational, research and service provision activities of military GPs/FDs to be represented before other world organisations and forums concerned with health and medical care.

e. Engender symbiotic support for the extant WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice, as both groups of colleagues sometimes face similar clinical challenges.

f. Encourage international military, conflict and catastrophe primary care research, promote the role of the military GPs/FDs, facilitate education and help to develop effective international military working relationships at all levels.

Objectives of the WONCA SIG on Conflict & Catastrophe Medicine

It is hoped that the SIG C&CM will

1. Provide useful in-country and regional contacts and networks of GPs/FDs.

2. Become a vehicle through which best practice and developments in military, conflict and catastrophe Family Medicine could be shared.

3. Influence the management of medical services during conflict or post-catastrophe in areas that have big needs but are resource poor.

4. Encourage collegial discussions between countries.

The objective of the SIG C&CM would be to produce military and civilian GPs/FDs capable of independent and team practice in austere and potentially hostile physical and organisational environments.

Publications & Documents


Plans of  SIG on Conflict & Catastrophe Medicine leading up to a launch in Rio in 2016

1. Endorsement of the appointment of a SIG C&CM Convenor (Prof Rich Withnall, UK) has been approved by the WONCA Executive in January 2015.

2. The Convenor would establish an Executive Committee to take forward the development work. The Executive Committee would comprise representatives from each WONCA region:
- Volunteers from WONCA’s Africa, North America, Asia Pacific, Europe and East Mediterranean Regions have already been identified. Their appointments would need to be confirmed through their member organisations.
- Volunteers from WONCA’s Iberoamerica-CIMF and South Asia Regions would be actively sought.

3. Space within the WONCA Rural Health Conference in Dubrovnik 15-18 Apr 14 was sought to deliver a workshop on ‘The Impact of Conflict’ as a ‘pre-launch’ event.

4. Space within the WONCA World conference in Rio 2016 programme would be sought to formally launch the SIG C&CM

5. The Convenor shall report the SIG C&CM’s activities annually to Executive Committee

Relevant Resources