Attacks on Ukrainian health facilities are war crimes – POLITICO

Attacks on health facilities in Ukraine constitute war crimes and as such could lead to indictments against the perpetrators, an official with the World Health Organization Foundation said on Friday.

“We shouldn’t assume, because we see so many attacks in our living rooms, that these are normal things,” the WHO Foundation’s head of strategy and impact, Emanuele Capobianco, told POLITICO. an interview. “These are war crimes; these are contrary to international law.

Capobianco was speaking two days after the shelling of a maternity hospital in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol killed three people and injured 17, prompting condemnation from world leaders. Footage from the scene showed bloodied pregnant women walking or being stretched to safety through the rubble.

Mariupol, which had more than 400,000 inhabitants before the Russian invasion two weeks ago, has been cut off by Russian troops. Repeated attempts to evacuate residents through the humanitarian corridors failed due to the shelling of the exit road. Aid agencies say the situation in the town is dire and local leaders say more than 1,000 residents have been killed, with some buried in mass graves.

The WHO Foundation is an organization that raises funds from individuals and businesses for the Global Health Group Ukraine Emergency Appeal, and is a separate legal entity from the WHO.

For its part, the WHO did not call the attacks a war crime, but Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said on Wednesday that the organization was conducting monitoring and verification of these attacks.

Current figures indicate that about 60 health facilities are non-functional in Ukraine, with 26 facilities having been the target of attacks.

The shocking reports from Ukraine could lead to an outpouring of financial support, but Capobianco said there are “still huge gaps in funding to support the response”.

Call for donations

The WHO has requested approximately $57 million to cover the first three months of its response. Although the foundation received a “positive response” to the appeal, it “remains largely unfunded” because it takes time for pledges to convert into real money, Capobianco explained. There are also fears that even if the initial response can be sustained, the health crisis in Ukraine could last well over three months, with donor interest likely waning.

In the meantime, the situation is getting worse day by day. The most urgent need is access to the 1,000 health facilities located within 10 kilometers of the front line. But at the moment, it “is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to supply drugs to these establishments,” Capobianco said.

On the list of urgent needs are trauma kits including instruments to remove bullets; generators to power the facilities; oxygen; drugs for chronic diseases; and mental health services.

While supporting injured soldiers and civilians may be a priority, without access to chronic medications such as insulin or medications to treat high blood pressure, patients could die and other conditions like HIV could develop. aggravate.

Despite the difficult situation, Capobianco said that, remarkably, surveillance systems such as that for COVID-19 cases are still working. “The resilience of [health] system has been quite remarkable. It is not yet a system that has collapsed,” he said.

WHO is working with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to identify the necessary medical support, including health workers. The WHO emergency medical team system has been activated, but the deployment of health workers depends on security on the ground.

Despite WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s plea for humanitarian corridors, the situation is currently “very bad” regarding this demand, Capobianco said. “To have safe access, you need ceasefires, you need agreements that vehicles carrying medicine won’t be looted or bombed… that ambulances won’t be shot down, and in many places in Ukraine at the time safe access is denied,” he said.

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