WHO calls for investigation into Russian attacks on Ukrainian health facilities

CHERNIHIV, UKRAINE – MAY 09: A medical worker searches for medicines and medical equipment at a destroyed hospital as Russian attacks continue in Chernihiv, Ukraine on May 09, 2022. Patients are being treated in additional buildings as health services are disrupted due to destroyed hospitals. (Photo by Abdullah Unver/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Tuesday called for investigations into Russian attacks on health facilities and ambulances in Ukraine.

The world health agency has documented 226 attacks since Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24, according to Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe. At least 75 people died and 49 were injured in the attacks, he said.

“These attacks are not justified and they are never acceptable. And they need to be investigated,” Kluge said during a press briefing at the Ukrainian Media Center in Kyiv.

The WHO will help with any investigation that takes place in the future, Kluge added.

His remarks come on the 83rd day of the Russian invasion, which left thousands dead and injured civilians in Ukraine, including children. Unprovoked attacks on health facilities and ambulances have increased as the war drags on.

The latest figure more than doubles the 100 attacks verified by the WHO more than a month ago.

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The WHO representative in Ukraine, Dr Jarno Habicht, said health facilities and ambulances attacked served a quarter of a million Ukrainians each month in 2021.

“So that’s the impact of these attacks. And these attacks continue, which is unacceptable. There’s no reason for that,” Habicht said.

He added that two-thirds of all attacks on healthcare facilities worldwide in 2022 took place in Ukraine alone.

Habicht said the WHO has taken steps to support Ukraine’s health system. He noted that the agency had delivered more than 500 tons of medical supplies to the hardest-hit parts of the country since February.

More than 50% of the supplies, including medicine, ambulances and electric generators, will go to trauma and injury care. The WHO also provides medical kits to treat people with chronic diseases, and one kit can provide three months of treatment for thousands of people, according to Habicht.

He added that the WHO is “very happy” that some governments and partners are also delivering medical supplies to Ukraine.

Kluge called the conditions of the healthcare system in Ukraine “heartbreaking and inspiring”. He condemned the “devastating” effect the Russian onslaught had on people’s lives, but praised Ukrainian health workers for their commitment to those in need.

“I would like to express my immense appreciation and admiration for the health workers of this country who have shown extraordinary bravery and dedication since the beginning of the war,” Kluge said. “You have done the impossible. You stand firm and save lives.

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