More than 100 attacks on healthcare verified by the World Health Organization (WHO) since the start of the war in February according to a report from WHO.
The attacks so far have claimed 73 lives and injured 51. A grim milestone has been crossed in the war in Ukraine –of the current total of 103 attacks, 89 have impacted health facilities and 13 have impacted transport, including ambulances.
“We are outraged those attacks on healthcare are continuing. Attacks on healthcare are a violation of international humanitarian law," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, at a press conference. “Peace is the only way forward. I again call on the Russian Federation to stop the war.”
This milestone of over 100 attacks on health spans barely 42 days since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. The impact of this violence is not only immediate, in the numbers of deaths and injuries – but also long-term in the consequences for Ukraine’s healthcare system. It’s a major blow to the country’s efforts to institute health reforms and achieve universal health coverage, a goal it had made significant progress on before the war erupted.
“Across Ukraine, 1000 health facilities are in proximity to conflict areas or in changed areas of control,” explained Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine. “Health workers throughout the country are risking their lives to serve those in need of medical services, and they, and their patients, must never be targeted. Further, when people are prevented from seeking and accessing healthcare, either because the facilities have been destroyed or out of fear that they may become a target, they lose hope. The mental health toll wreaked by the war cannot be underestimated, affecting civilians and the health workforce alike."
Attacks on healthcare unfortunately seen amid conflicts globally. Since January 1, 2022, WHO has verified 160 attacks on healthcare in 11 countries and territories resulting in 97 deaths and 74 injuries. Outside of Ukraine at this time, Sudan is also witnessing a recent increase in attacks on healthcare.
An attack on healthcare is 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. Types of attacks vary across contexts and can range from physical violence, psychosocial threats and intimidation to use of heavy weaponry against healthcare facilities.