Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been numerous airstrikes hitting hospitals or their surroundings.

International humanitarian law (IHL) specifically protects hospitals. The Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols stipulate that the sick and wounded, medical staff, hospitals and mobile medical units may under no circumstances be the object of attack. This also applies to wounded military personnel being treated in the hospital and to armed medical workers- if they are armed to defend their lives and those of the wounded.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounced indiscriminate strikes from Russia. For indiscriminate attacks, it is worth recalling the most fundamental principle in IHL: the principle of distinction, meaning the obligation of the belligerents to distinguish civilians from military targets at all times. An attack may be directed against combatants or military objectives, such as a command centre but not against civilian persons or objects. If the strike is not directed at a military target, then it is considered indiscriminate. This is a violation of IHL and may constitute a war crime.  

Back in 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2286 strongly condemning attacks on medical personnel in conflict situations and the resolution demanded an end to impunity for those responsible and respect for international law including international human rights law, as applicable, and international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Convention of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005 on the part of all warring parties.  Co-sponsored by more than 80 Member States, the 15-member Council strongly condemned attacks and threats against the wounded and sick, medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities. It deplored the long-term consequences of such attacks for the civilian populations and health-care systems of the countries concerned.  

Russian Federation ( Military Manual)

The Russian Federation’s Military Manual (1990) states that “attack, bombardment or destruction of medical facilities” is a prohibited method of warfare. The manual further lists among the responsibilities of commanders in peacetime “to ensure that medical units, establishments and facilities are located in such a way that their security will not be jeopardized during attacks against military objectives”.

The Russian Federation’s Regulations on the Application of IHL (2001) states: “objects protected by international humanitarian law include … medical units … Attacks against such objects are prohibited by international humanitarian law with the exception of cases stipulated by this law.” With regard to internal armed conflicts, the Regulations states: Medical units … shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack except for cases when they are used to commit hostile acts. Protection may, however, cease only after a warning has been given and after such warning has remained unheeded.

Attacks on health care in Ukraine: Fe. 24- December 31, 2022

Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, about 1,300 healthcare facilities have been damaged or destroyed.

  • 1,106 medical infrastructure facilities have been damaged
  • 174 facilities were destroyed to the ground and cannot be restored
  • 186 facilities have been fully restored
  • 297 medical facilities are in the process of reconstruction
  • 5 regions with the most damaged medical infrastructure: Kyiv, Chernihiv, Donetsk, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv.
  • 106 healthcare workers have been killed in Ukraine
  • 650 ambulances were damaged or destroyed
  • 596 pharmacies were damaged or destroyed.

Source :Ministry of Health of Ukraine

One out of ten of Ukraine’s hospitals has been damaged

The war has caused approximately €2.29bn in damage to health sector infrastructure in Ukraine, while the total reconstruction and recovery needs in the country are estimated at €15bn over the next 10 years. This year alone, almost €504m is required to save lives and ensure that 14.6 million people in Ukraine regain access to humanitarian health support.

  1. No child should be born under a barrage of missile strikes. 
  2. No patient should die buried under rubble from a hospital they visited seeking care and protection. 
  3. No doctor should lose his life while trying to save others. 
  4. Ending violence against civilians and indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure is essential in order for Ukrainians to begin to rebuild their lives.

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