WHO data shows more Ukrainians could die in attacks on health facilities by 2024

Russian missile attack on Ukraine’s largest base Children’s Hospital on Monday highlighted a growing number of deadly attacks on medical facilities, vehicles and workers in the country this year. It adds to data from the World Health Organization and suggests that more Ukrainians are likely to be killed in such attacks this year than last.

Prior to the attack on the Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv, WHO had recorded 18 deaths and 81 injuries in more than 175 attacks on health care infrastructure in Ukraine in the first half of 2024. The organization also recorded 44 attacks on medical vehicles during that period.

In all of 2023, the organization tallied 22 deaths and 117 injuries from 350 such attacks, and 45 more specific attacks on medical vehicles like ambulances. Other organizations have even higher death tolls. higher.

At least one doctor and another adult were killed in Monday’s attack at the hospital, and at least 10 others, including seven children, were wounded in Russian shelling across the country. In total, the bombing killed at least 38 people, including 27 in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, local officials said.

Attacks on civilian hospitals are prohibited under Article 18 of the Geneva Conventionratified by United Nations member states after World War II. And Article 20 of the convention states that health care workers must be protected by all parties to a conflict.

Experts say Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukraine’s health care infrastructure in a campaign that some say amounts to war crimes.

In a statement on social media on Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry denied deliberately attacking civilian targets in Ukraine. Video of the attack, filmed by a Kyiv resident and verified by The New York Times, showed a missile moving down at high speed before hitting the hospital.

Christian De Vos, a lawyer and director of research and investigations at Physicians for Human Rights in New York, said the world has yet to see a prosecution in an international court where the focus of the case is an attack on health care infrastructure.

Experts say Russia’s attack targets the most vulnerable and puts pressure on Ukraine’s already stretched health care system.

“Under international humanitarian law, hospitals and health care facilities are protected precisely because civilians are seeking care,” said Mr. De Vos. “These are places that are meant to ensure the protection of civilians and save them from the horrors of war.”

WHO defines a attack on health care infrastructure is any act or threat of violence that interferes with the availability, accessibility, or delivery of health services. Its data includes both confirmed and probable attacks, which the organization defines as attacks with a witness account. or two sub-accounts confirmed with WHO partners.

Attacks on hospitals and medical staff in conflicts around the world are on the rise, experts say, and in Ukraine the increase comes as no surprise to some rescue workers.

“We are constantly having to reassess where we are working and withdraw from areas that are becoming unviable,” said Christopher Stokes, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, where the fighting has dragged on for more than two years.

Earlier this year, the organization tried to set up an emergency department in the Kherson region, but the hospital was repeatedly bombed, Mr. Stokes said. By the sixth attack, he said, the decision was made to abandon the effort.

Some hospitals are trying to take precautions, sandbagging windows and moving patients and operating rooms to lower floors, experts say. Higher floors are considered too dangerous because of the potential for strikes.

“These hospitals are not safe havens, especially for patients,” said Mr Stokes.

Uliana Poltavets, emergency response coordinator for Physicians for Human Rights, has been documenting attacks on health care infrastructure and said she heard explosions from the attack Monday morning in Kyiv. She said it was part of a “pattern of violence” that has been repeated in Ukraine since February 2022, when the war began.

“The full-scale invasion began with an attack on a maternity home in Mariupol,” she said. “Three years into the war, children appear to be the target.”


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