CHERNIHIV, UKRAINE – MAY 09: A healthcare professional searches for medicines and medical equipment in a destroyed hospital as Russian attacks continue in Chernihiv, Ukraine on May 09, 2022. Patients are treated in additional buildings as health services are disrupted due to the destroyed hospitals. (Photo by Abdullah Unver/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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The World Health Organization on Tuesday called for investigations into Russian attacks on health-care facilities and ambulances in Ukraine.
The global health agency has documented 226 attacks since Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24, according to Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe. At least 75 people died and 49 were injured in the attacks, he said.
“These attacks are not justified and they are never OK. And they must be investigated,” Kluge said during a press briefing at the Ukraine Media Center in Kyiv.
The WHO will contribute to any investigation that takes place in the future, Kluge added.
His remarks come on the 83rd day of Russia’s invasion, which has caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries in Ukraine, including children. Unprovoked attacks on health-care facilities and ambulances have climbed as the war drags on.
The latest figure more than doubles the 100 attacks verified by the WHO over a month ago.
WHO representative in Ukraine, Dr. Jarno Habicht, said the health-care facilities and ambulances attacked had served a quarter of a million Ukrainians each month in 2021.
“So that’s the impact of those attacks. And those attacks are continuing, which is unacceptable. There is no reason for that,” Habicht said.
He added that two-thirds of all attacks on health-care facilities worldwide in 2022 have taken place in Ukraine alone.
Habicht said the WHO has taken steps to support Ukraine’s health system. He noted that the agency has delivered more than 500 metric tons of medical supplies to the hardest-hit areas of the country since February.
More than 50% of the supplies, including medicines, ambulances and electric generators, will go toward trauma and injury care. The WHO also provides medical kits to treat those with chronic illnesses, and one kit can provide three months of treatment for thousands of people, according to Habicht.
He added the WHO is “very glad” that some governments and partners are also delivering medical supplies to Ukraine.
Kluge called the conditions of the health system in Ukraine both “heartbreaking and inspiring.” He condemned the “devastating” effect the Russian assault has had on people’s lives, but praised the health workers in Ukraine for their commitment to those in need.
“I’d like to express my immense appreciation and admiration for the health workers of this country who have shown tremendous bravery and dedication since the war began,” Kluge said. “You have done the impossible. You stand firm and save lives.”