Health facilities in the crosshairs – the unacceptable reality of war in Ukraine – Ukraine

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One of the largest hospitals in eastern Ukraine, providing specialist medical care to a population of 103,000, was accustomed to dealing with the aftermath of the conflict even before the start of the Russian military offensive on 24 February 2022. Since 2014, the hospital had played a crucial role in the treatment of wounded soldiers from the armed struggle in the neighboring region of Donbass, as well as in the care of the 51,000 civilians displaced by the hostilities.

But now this hospital is out of order.

“The hospital was essential for the whole area, because here there was a resuscitation unit and all the medical equipment necessary to treat the civilian population, as well as the surgical and emergency facilities necessary to treat the victims of the conflict” , said Viktor, the head of the hospital.

In 2019, WHO installed an oxygen generator at the hospital to ensure there was no disruption to life-saving care for patients, and also donated equipment for washing and sterilize medical devices.

The beginning of the war

Andriy, one of the hospital’s caregivers, remembers the terrifying days that followed February 24: “The heavy shelling and attacks on the city started the next day, February 25, and lasted 10 days. Almost immediately, our hospital received an influx of wounded and we had to set up a bomb shelter in the basement of the hospital to protect the hundreds of civilians seeking refuge. Most patients and healthcare workers were only evacuated from the hospital when the situation got so bad that we were unable to continue providing medical care.

After a week and a half of shelling, the hospital was not only out of service, but so badly damaged that any possibility of restarting services was impossible.

Healthcare #NotATarget

As of April 6, the WHO has verified 91 reports of attacks on healthcare in Ukraine, leaving 73 dead and 46 injured. This is unacceptable.

The attacks on health MUST stop. Not only do they put lives at risk, but they deprive people of urgently needed care and shatter already strained healthcare systems.

Health systems, facilities and health workers should never be targets. They must remain protected, functional, safe and accessible to all who need essential medical services. In any conflict, attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law.

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