health and personal care are not targets

To date, there are more than 100 health attacks in Ukraine, targeting health facilities, hospitals, staff, patients, supplies, warehouses. The WHO, which has verified 160 attacks on health care in 11 countries since January 1, 2022, points out: No coincidence. Hospitals are now part of war strategies and tactics. Phenomena of this type are documented all over the world, in places affected by conflict. Among the most recent cases is Sudan, which is seeing a sharp rise in attacks on healthcare.

World wars, WHO: health and personal care are not targets

Attack on Mariupol hospital (AP Photo / Evgeniy Maloletka)

Over 100 tons of medical supplies, including oxygen, surgical equipment, anesthetics and blood transfusion kits. And again, oxygen concentrators, electricity generators as well as me defibrillators. This is what the WHO sends on attack locations in Ukraine. A war, which Russia has been waging since February 24, devoid of all humanity, which has already recorded more than 100 attacks against health facilities and services.

But attacks on healthcare also affect staff, patients, supplies, warehouses. All of this is a blow to Ukraine’s efforts to introduce health care reforms and achieve universal health coverage; an objective on which the country led by Volodymyr Zelenskii had made significant progress before the outbreak of the conflict. The WHO representative in Ukraine, Jarno Habicht, explained that across the country, 1,000 health facilities are near conflict zones or in modified control zones, pointing out that healthcare workers risk their lives to serve those in need of medical services and they and their patients should never be targeted.

No luck but the result of a war strategy

The World Health Organization, which has verified attacks on hospitals – such as the particularly heinous one on Mariupol Children’s Hospital – and health facilities in Ukraine and the rest of the world in other conflicts (the data collected is the result of the Healthcare Attack Monitoring Systema database with forts checked and updated by a dedicated team of the Organization, as confirmed by the Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) was clearly expressed: No coincidence. Hospitals are part of war strategies and tactics. Despite the veto of international laws.

Indeed, International Humanitarian Law protects health establishments and the operators who work there from interference and attacks during armed conflicts. The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 have been signed by 196 States, including Russia and Ukraine, which have also ratified the first Additional Protocol. These require each party to the conflict to protect and ensure the proper functioning of medical facilities, means of transport and personnel; protect and ensure fair treatment of civilians and wounded combatants, and that impartial care is provided by medical personnel to civilians and wounded combatants, in accordance with medical ethics.

The sanctity of health care must be maintained even during conflict. Health care and personnel are not a target, they repeat from the WHO. It goes without saying that the consequences of all this on local populations are devastating and – in the short and long term – cripple entire health systems. Disastrous consequences that include the inability to manage pathologies linked to armed conflicts, a reduced capacity to care for people with chronic diseases, the inability to both protect public health and manage outbreaks of communicable diseases .

Health damage, the phenomenon is global

Since January 1, 2022, the WHO has verified 160 attacks on health care in 11 countries and territories which left 97 dead and 74 injured. But attacks on health facilities and personnel during the conflict are unfortunately a general phenomenon and not unique to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, being documented across the world in conflict-affected places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Syria And Yemen.

More than 4,000 attacks or threats against health care have been carried out worldwide, from 2016 to 2020, according to the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, a group of international nongovernmental organizations aimed at protecting health care workers as well as medical services and infrastructures located in countries at war. , which annually provides information and details on incidents affecting health care in these locations.

Sudan, security forces attack Khartoum hospital

Apart from Ukraine, as already mentioned, Sudan is also experiencing a recent increase in attacks on healthcare. A few days ago – the Independent Central Committee of Sudanese doctors denounced – the security forces of Sudan attacked Al Jawda Hospital, in the capital, firing tear gas inside and suffocating some patients. According to activists, security forces entered the hospital, terrorizing health workers and raping some patients.

A similar episode also reportedly occurred on March 17, with the same officers accused of assaulting staff at a medical center in the capital. Since the demonstrations in mid-March, reports the local press, the Khartoum government has united the various forces on the ground. According to the opposition, these same forces attacked the Stack Medical Research Laboratories and attacked its medical staff before stealing their mobile phones.

The soldiers, further denounce the militants, also attacked an ambulance transporting an injured protester towards the center of Khartoum. In particular, the medical commission condemned the barbaric interruption of the work of the blood bank, endangering the lives of thousands of patients.


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