WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA seek end to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s healthcare facilities

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Ukrainian servicemen get ready to repel an attack in Ukraine’s Lugansk region on February 24, 2022. Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP
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The World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has demanded an immediate ceasefire on the Ukraine-Russia war.

Recall that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started on February 24 and has resulted in hundreds of casualties and displaced millions of people.

In a joint statement issued on Sunday and signed by the Executive Director, UNICEF, Catherine Russell; Executive Director, UNFPA, Natalia Kanem, and Director -General, WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, the organizations has stated the war in Ukraine is affecting the provision of healthcare, especially to vulnerable persons.

“Today, we call for an immediate cessation of all attacks on health care in Ukraine,” the statement reads.

“These horrific attacks are killing and causing serious injuries to patients and health workers, destroying vital health infrastructure and forcing thousands to forgo accessing health services despite catastrophic needs.

“To attack the most vulnerable babies, children, pregnant women, and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives is an act of unconscionable cruelty.

“Agencies noted that since the start of the war, 31 attacks on health care have been documented via the WHO’s Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA).

According to these reports, health care facilities were damaged or destroyed, while in five cases ambulances were also damaged or destroyed.

“These attacks have led to at least 12 deaths and 34 injuries, and affected access to and availability of essential health services. WHO is verifying further reports, as attacks continue to be reported despite the calls for protection of health care.”

The organizations added that attacks on health care infrastructure and health workers directly impact people’s ability to access essential services.

“We have already seen that the health care needs of pregnant women, new mothers, younger children and older people inside Ukraine are rising, while access to services is being severely limited by the violence,” the statement reads.

“For example, more than 4,300 births have occurred in Ukraine since the start of war and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in next three months.

“Oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low.

“The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening.

“We must be able to safely deliver emergency medical supplies – including those required for obstetric and neonatal care – to health centers, temporary facilities and underground shelters.”

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