Around 200 attacks have been carried out on healthcare facilities in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, the World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Ukraine on Saturday.
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“I have seen the damage inflicted on health structures, and listened to accounts of the harm – physical and mental – inflicted on health workers. These are people whose primary motivation is to protect health and life.,” said the WHO chief, recounting what he discovered during his visit to Ukraine.
“WHO has now verified 200 attacks on health care in Ukraine since the war began. These attacks must stop. Healthcare is never a target,” he added.
The Director-General praised the Ukrainian people for their resilience and drew on his own personal experience of growing up in a warzone.
“My time here has affected me very personally. As someone – myself, who grew up in a warzone myself, I understand only too well how the people of Ukraine feel – the worry for family and friends, the fear, the sense of loss and so on. Because I know the impact, I know the devastation of war firsthand. And I felt very, very sad when Russia invaded Ukraine because I know its impact and devastation,” he said.
Ghebreyesus continued: “However, I have seen extraordinary resilience – people who have suffered loss and destruction but have not given up. They have kept going, repairing essential services to stop that destruction making a deeper hole in their lives.”
“These are people whose primary motivation is to protect health and life.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a “special military operation,” the UN organization has been actively delivering trauma and emergency aid to facilitate 15,000 surgeries to be carried out, providing the necessary medicines and healthcare equipment to serve 650,000 people in need.
Debris are seen on site of the destroyed Mariupol children’s hospital as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 9, 2022 in this still image from a handout video obtained by Reuters. (File photo: Reuters)
“While I saw and learned of great suffering, I also saw bravery, humor, kindness and heard stories of spontaneous, often ingenious ways people have found to help and protect one another,” he said.
Over the past few months, WHO has played an active role in Ukraine, coordinating over 50 emergency medical teams in Ukraine and neighboring countries hosting refugees who fled the conflict and “trained thousands of Ukrainian healthcare providers on how to handle mass casualties,” he explained.
The WHO chief also praised the organization’s staff in Ukraine for supporting the war-torn country’s health needs.
“Our team in Ukraine was working hard to support the country to build an ever-stronger health system before the war. And that work will continue.”
Met with @EmineDzheppar, #Ukraine First Deputy Foreign Minister, to discuss the urgent need to access besieged areas to provide lifesaving support, particularly where water & food supplies are disrupted. We also discussed the needs of those who fled to neighbouring countries. pic.twitter.com/GQvwQDxRiK
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) May 8, 2022
“… there is one medicine that WHO cannot deliver, and which Ukraine needs more than any other, and that is peace. So we continue to call on the Russian Federation to stop this war.”
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