Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, at least 31 attacks on health care institutes have been documented by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO, together with UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), called on Russia to halt all attacks on health care in Ukraine, stating that 31 attacks on health care have been documented via the WHO, which resulted in 24 health care facilities being damaged or destroyed.
"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," a statement from the three organisations read.
The attacks led to at least 12 deaths and 34 injuries and affected access to and availability of essential health services, according to the WHO, which is still working to verify further reports, as "attacks continue to be reported."
Most recently, an airstrike devastated a maternity hospital in the port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, killing at least three people and wounding at least 17 people, according to Ukrainian officials.
Mariupol. Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity. pic.twitter.com/FoaNdbKH5k— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 9, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shared a video of the aftermath of the attack, saying it was an atrocity. Mariupol's City Council said it caused “colossal” damage.
Needs are growing, access is limited
The WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA criticised all acts of violence on health care institutes. "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."
They added that, already, the needs of pregnant women, new mothers, younger children and older people in the country are rising, while access to services is being severely limited by the ongoing conflict.
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“For example, more than 4,300 births have occurred in Ukraine since the start of the war and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months."
Mariia Shostak, a 25-year-old woman living in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, started having contractions on 24 February, the day the Russian Federation launched a military offensive in Ukraine, and gave birth amid the sounds of air raid sirens. CC @unfpahttps://t.co/IYn6ovsPdY— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) March 8, 2022
"Oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low," the organisations said.
They called on the upholding of international humanitarian and human rights, stressing that the protection of civilians must be the top priority.
“Health care and services should be protected from all acts of violence and obstruction. Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has already put health systems and health care workers under enormous strain, such attacks have the potential to be even more devastating for the civilian population."