Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Stop The Attacks on Healthcare Workers in Ukraine: UN Agencies

Health care and services must be protected from all acts of violence and obstruction, said the heads of UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO
March 14, 2022
healthcare workers in Ukraine
A paramedic treating injured civils in an ambulance in Ukraine. Photo Credit- @Ukrainianfree66/ Twitter

On the eighteenth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the heads of three United Nations agencies on Sunday called for an immediate end to all attacks on healthcare workers in Ukraine.

“Today, we call for an immediate end to all attacks on healthcare workers in Ukraine. These horrific attacks are killing and seriously injuring patients and health workers, destroying vital health infrastructure and forcing thousands of people to give up access to health services despite catastrophic needs,” said the Chief Executive of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Catherine Russell, the Director-General of the United Nations Agency for Sexual and Reproductive Health (UNFPA), Dr Natalia Kanem, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a joint statement.

According to them, attacking the most vulnerable is “an unconscionable act of cruelty”.

In Ukraine, since the start of the war, 31 attacks on health care services have been documented through the WHO’s attack on health care monitoring system.

According to these reports, in 24 incidents, health care facilities were damaged or destroyed, while 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 verifying other reports, as attacks continue to be reported despite calls for the protection of health care.

“Attacks on caregivers and health workers have a direct impact on people’s ability to access essential health services – especially 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 limited by violence,” stressed the three senior UN officials.

More than 4,300 births have taken place in Ukraine since the start of the war and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months. Oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are “dangerously low”.

“The healthcare system in Ukraine is clearly under strain, and its collapse would be a disaster. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening,” said Russell, Kanem and Tedros. “International humanitarian law and human rights must be respected, and the protection of civilians must be our top priority,” the joint statement added.