Ukraine: Health facilities a “target” of war

pharmafile | March 17, 2022 | News story | Business Services  

Healthcare facilities have become a “target” of war, WHO has said, warning that the health system in Ukraine is “teetering on the brink.” The organisation added that emergency medical teams could not be deployed when health infrastructure was under attack.

“We’ve never seen globally… this rate of attacks on healthcare,” WHO’s Emergencies Director Michael Ryan told a press conference, stating that “Health is becoming a target,” and part of the “strategy and tactics of war.”

In a joint statement on 13 March, with UNICEF and UNFPA, WHO shared: “In Ukraine, since the start of the war, 31 attacks on health care have been documented via the WHO’s Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA). According to these reports, in 24 incidents health care facilities were damaged or destroyed, while in five cases ambulances were damaged or destroyed. These attacks have led to at least 12 deaths and 34 injuries, and affected access to and availability of essential health services. WHO is verifying further reports, as attacks continue to be reported despite the calls for protection of health care.”

Since then, WHO have verified 89 attacks on health in the first 75 days of 2022, of which 43 were attacks in Ukraine. The global health body has shared that the first part of 2022 has seen the highest ever rate of attacks on healthcare around the globe, contrary to international law.

“It is against international humanitarian law, and in fact under international humanitarian law conflicting parties are actually instructed to specifically take measures to avoid attacking or inadvertently destroying or hurting health workers or health facilities,” continued Michael Ryan.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, has highlighted that “More than 300 health facilities are along conflict lines, or in areas that Russia now controls, and a further 600 facilities are within 10 kilometres of the conflict line.”

In the joint statement with UNICEF and UNFPA, WHO underlined that “more than 4,300 births have occurred in Ukraine since the start of war, and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in next three months. Oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low.”

The statement concluded: “The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening.”

Ana Ovey

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