At least 100 attacks on health facilities have been recorded in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Describing it as a “grim milestone”, the WHO said it had verified a total of 103 attacks on healthcare infrastructure in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, including 89 attacks that hit healthcare facilities and 13 which had an impact on transport, including ambulances.
Defined as “any act of verbal or physical violence or obstruction or threat of violence that interferes with the availability, access and delivery of curative and/or preventive health services”, attacks on health facilities are forbidden by international humanitarian law, signed under the first Geneva Convention in 1864. Despite this, hospitals and other health facilities are frequently the target of armed conflict. Since January 1, 2022, the WHO has documented at least 160 attacks on health care in 11 countries and territories.
“Across Ukraine, 1,000 health facilities are near conflict zones or in modified control zones,” said Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine. statement. “Health workers across the country are risking their lives to serve those in need of medical services, and they and their patients must never be targeted. Moreover, when people are prevented from seeking and accessing health care, either because facilities have been destroyed or out of fear that they will become a target, they lose hope. The mental health toll caused by war cannot be underestimated, affecting civilians and medical personnel alike. »
“We are outraged that attacks on health care continue. Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law,” added Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, during a press conference.
“Peace is the only way forward,” he continued. “I again call on the Russian Federation to stop the war.”