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Death toll from attacks on medical facilities could rise in 2024, WHO data shows

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Russian missile strike hits Ukraine’s largest Children’s Hospital Monday’s report, which highlights a growing number of deadly attacks on medical facilities, vehicles and workers in Ukraine this year, supplements World Health Organization data and suggests more Ukrainians may have died in such attacks this year than last.

Prior to the attack on the Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv, WHO had documented more than 175 attacks on medical infrastructure in Ukraine in the first half of 2024, killing 18 people and injuring 81. The organization also documented 44 attacks on medical vehicles during the same period.

Throughout 2023, the organization counted 350 such attacks, killing 22 people and injuring 117, 45 of which occurred on medical vehicles such as ambulances. Other organizations have even estimated the death toll. higher.

At least one doctor and one adult were killed in Monday’s attack at the hospital, and at least 10 people, including seven children, were injured in Russia’s nationwide shelling, which killed at least 38 people in total, including 27 in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, local officials said.

Attacks on civilian hospitals are prohibited Article 18 of the Geneva ConventionsArticle 20 of the convention, which was ratified by UN member states after World War II, states that medical personnel must be protected by all belligerents.

Experts say Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukraine’s medical infrastructure, actions some say amount to war crimes.

Russia’s Defense Ministry denied in a statement on social media on Monday that it had deliberately attacked Ukrainian civilian targets. Video of the attack shot by a Kiev resident and verified by The New York Times showed a missile flying downward at high speed before hitting the hospital.

Christian De Vos, a lawyer and director of research and investigations at Physicians for Human Rights in New York, said the world had not seen a case prosecuted in an international court with attacks on medical infrastructure as the main focus.

Experts say Russia’s attacks targeted those most vulnerable and put further pressure on Ukraine’s already overwhelmed health care system.

“Hospitals and medical facilities are protected under international humanitarian law precisely because civilians need medical care,” said Mr. de Vos. “These sites are meant to keep civilians safe and protect them from the horrors of war.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Attacks on healthcare Infrastructure is any act or threat of violence that interferes with the availability, access or delivery of health services. Its data includes both confirmed attacks and possible attacks, which the organization defines as those witnessed by only one witness. Or confirm two secondary accounts with WHO partners.

Experts say attacks on hospitals and health workers are on the rise in conflicts around the world, and the increase in attacks in Ukraine is not a surprise to some emergency workers.

“We have to constantly review where we work and withdraw from areas where we can’t work,” said Christopher Stokes, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, where the war has lasted for more than two years.

Mr. Stokes said the group had tried to set up an emergency department in the Kherson region earlier this year, but the hospital was repeatedly bombarded. He said they decided to abandon the effort after the sixth attack.

Some hospitals have tried to take precautions by covering windows with sandbags and moving patients and operating rooms to lower floors, where higher floors are considered too risky because of the possibility of a strike, experts said.

“These hospitals are not places where you can feel safe, especially for patients,” Mr Stokes said.

Uliana Poltavets, emergency response coordinator for Physicians for Human Rights, who has documented attacks on medical infrastructure, said she heard explosions from the attacks in Kiev on Monday morning. She said it was part of a “pattern of violence” that has been repeated in Ukraine since the war began in February 2022.

“The full-scale invasion began with an attack on a maternal and child health care center in Mariupol,” she said. “Three years into the war, children seem to be the target.”

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