Several organizations have called for an end to the violence and targeting of health facilities and workers, highlighting the urgent need for access to health care in Ukraine.
By Francesca Merlo
“Today we call for an immediate end to all attacks on healthcare in Ukraine.” In a strong appeal published on Sunday, UNICEF describes the “horrible attacks” in Ukraine, which “kill and seriously injure patients and health workers, destroy vital health infrastructure and force thousands of people to give up access to health services despite crying needs”. “.
The statement, written jointly with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), stresses that “addressing the most vulnerable – infants, children, pregnant women, those who are already suffering diseases and illnesses, and health workers who risk their lives to save lives – is an unconscionable act of cruelty”.
In Ukraine, since the start of the war, 31 attacks on health care have been documented through the WHO’s Health Care Attacks (SSA) Monitoring System. According to these reports, in 24 incidents, health care facilities were damaged or destroyed and, in five cases, ambulances were damaged or destroyed. These attacks left at least 12 dead and 34 injured, and affected access to and availability of essential health services. The WHO is investigating other reports as attacks continue to be reported despite calls to protect health care.
The impact of the attacks
The statement goes on to note the impact of attacks on health care and health workers. It begins by noting the impact on people’s ability to access essential services, with particular attention to women, children and other vulnerable groups. “We have already seen that the health care needs of pregnant women, new mothers, young children and the elderly in Ukraine are increasing, while access to services is severely restricted by violence.”
An example of this, the statement continued, is the 4,300 births in Ukraine since the start of the war, and the fact that 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months. UNICEF and WHO warn that “oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low”.
“The health system in Ukraine is clearly under pressure, and its collapse would be a disaster. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening. International humanitarian law and human rights must be respected, and the protection of civilians must be our top priority,” the statement noted.
At the same time, the statement goes on to highlight the need for humanitarian partners and health workers to be able to safely maintain and scale up the provision of essential health services, including vaccination against COVID-19 and polio, and the supply of life-saving drugs. for civilians throughout Ukraine and for refugees entering neighboring countries. “Health services should be systematically available at border crossings, including rapid assistance and referral procedures for children and pregnant women,” they add.
Ending their call, the three organizations emphasize that “health care and services must be protected from all acts of violence and obstacles”, especially in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic “which has already put strain on health systems and health workers “For the benefit of health care workers and all people in Ukraine who need to access the life-saving services they provide, attacks on all health care and other civilian infrastructure must cease”.
Finally, they add, “we call for an immediate ceasefire, including unhindered access so that those in need can obtain humanitarian assistance. A peaceful resolution to end the war in Ukraine is possible.” “.