The World Health Organization says attacks on health care personnel and facilities by Russian forces in Ukraine are impeding efforts to provide life-saving medical care to the beleaguered population.
The United Nations has recorded 4,450 civilian casualties, including nearly 1,900 killed and 2,560 injured since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
But the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which keeps track of civilian war victims, says it believes this count is grossly underestimated.
Since the start of the conflict, the World Health Organization reports it has delivered 216 tons of emergency medical supplies and equipment across Ukraine. However, WHO spokesman Bhanu Bhatnagar said just over half of the supplies have reached their intended destinations.
Speaking from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Bhatnagar explains the difficulties of delivering aid in a war zone. As of now, he said WHO has verified 108 incidents of attacks on health care, including hospitals, medical personnel, ambulances, supplies, and warehouses.
“At least 73 people have been killed and 51 people injured in those attacks. And we continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms all attacks on health care, which not only deprive people of vital health services but are also in violation of international humanitarian law,” he said.
Bhatnagar said WHO emergency medical teams are setting up field hospitals where facilities have been damaged or destroyed. And he notes they are working with national and international partners to set up mobile primary health care clinics.
“Roughly 300 health facilities are in conflict areas at this time and about 1,000 health facilities are in changed areas of control. And that leaves the health system really vulnerable to infrastructural damage and severe disruptions to critical services. And this means there is limited or no access to medicines and health facilities and health workers in some areas,” he said.
Russian troops have failed to gain control of the capital Kyiv and have shifted their focus toward capturing Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
In view of this impending crisis, WHO is trying to expand its operational base in Dnipro in east-central Ukraine. Spokesman Bhatnagar says WHO wants to be closer to the people who are in greatest need of life-saving assistance.