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Attacks on Ukrainian medical facilities are war crimes – POLITICO

Attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine constitute a war crime and as such could lead to indictment against the perpetrators, a World Health Organization official said.

“We shouldn’t assume, because we’re seeing so many attacks in the living room, that these are normal,” said WHO director of strategy and impact, Emanuele Capobianco. told POLITICO in an interview. “These are war crimes; These are contrary to international law. ”

Capobianco spoke two days after bomb maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol, southern Ukraine, killing three people and injuring 17, prompting condemnation from world leaders. Pictures from the scene showed pregnant women covered in blood walking or being stretched to safety through the rubble.

Mariupol, which had a population of more than 400,000 people before the Russian invasion two weeks ago, has been cut off by the Russian military. Many attempts to evacuate residents through humanitarian corridors have failed due to shelling at the exits. Aid agencies say the situation in the city is dire, and local leaders say more than 1,000 residents have died, some buried in mass graves.

The WHO is an agency that raises money from individuals and companies for the global health group emergency response appeal in Ukraine and is a separate legal entity from the WHO.

For its part, the WHO does not call the attacks a war crime, but Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said Wednesday that the organization is carrying out surveillance and verification. these attacks.

Current figures show that there are about 60 dormant medical facilities in Ukraine, with 26 of them the target of attacks.

Shocking reports from Ukraine could lead to ample financial support, but Capobianco said “large gaps still exist in funding to sustain a response”.

Call for donations

WHO has requested about $57 million to cover the first three months of the response. Although the fund has received “positive feedback” about this Stunning, Capobianco explains that it is “mostly still unreimbursed” because it takes time for pledges to be converted into actual cash. There is also concern that even if the initial response can be sustained, the health crisis in Ukraine could last for more than three months, with donor interest likely to wane.

Meanwhile, the situation is getting worse day by day. The most urgent requirement is to access 1,000 medical facilities located within 10 km of the front line. But right now, “getting drugs to those facilities is extremely difficult, if not impossible,” says Capobianco.

On the list of urgent items is a trauma kit that includes tools to remove bullets; generators to supply electricity to facilities; oxygen; chronic medication; and mental health services.

While assisting wounded soldiers and civilians can be a concern, without access to chronic medications such as insulin or antihypertensives, patients can die and develop serious health conditions. Other conditions such as HIV can be aggravated.

Despite the difficult situation, Capobianco said that notably, surveillance systems such as those for COVID-19 cases are still operational. “The resilience of [health] The system has been quite remarkable. It is not a system that has collapsed,” he said.

WHO is working with Ukraine’s health ministry to determine what medical assistance is needed, including health workers. The WHO Emergency Medical Team system has been activated, but the deployment of medical personnel depends on safety on the ground.

Capobianco said that despite a call by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for humanitarian corridors, the situation was “very dire” for the request. “For safe access, you need decommissioning, you need an agreement that the drug delivery vehicles will not be looted or bombed… ambulances will not be fired at, and in many places in Ukraine right now. safe access is being denied,” he said.

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