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Private sector involvement in times of armed conflict: What are the constraints for trading medical equipment?

Georg Schmidt, MA, PhD candidate


Objective: Today, healthcare facilities are highly dependent on the private sector to keep their medical equipment functioning. Moreover, private sector involvement becomes particularly important for the supply of spare parts and consumables. However, in times of armed conflict, the capacity of the corporate world appears to be seriously hindered. Subsequently, this study researches the influence of armed conflict on the private medical equipment sector.

Design: This study follows a qualitative approach by conducting 19 interviews with representatives of the corporate world in an active conflict zone. A semistructured interview guide, consisting of 10 questions, was used to examine the constraints of this sector.

Results: The results reveal that the lack of skilled personnel, complicated importation procedures, and a decrease in financial capacity are the major constraints faced by private companies dealing in medical equipment in conflict zones.

Conclusions: Even when no official sanctions and embargoes for medical items exist, constraints for trading medical equipment are clearly recognizable. Countries at war would benefit from a centralized structure that deals with the importation procedures for medical items, to assist local companies in their purchasing procedures. A high degree of adaption is needed to continue operating, despite the emerging constraints of armed conflict. Future studies might research the constraints for manufacturers outside the conflict to export medical items to the country of war.


armed conflict, medical equipment, private sector, disaster management

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