Foto: Jean-Pierre Amigo

18 000 000 people affected (1) More than 12 000 000
require life-saving
humanitarian assistance (2)
More than 6 000 000
are targeted for
humanitarian health care. 
76 children were
injured and 41 killed (3)
1,424
civilian casualties,
including 516 killed (4)
More than 2 000 000
refugees;
1 000 000 people
newly displaced in Ukraine (5)

The armed conflict in Ukraine first erupted in early 2014 and quickly transitioned to a long stalemate, with regular shelling and skirmishes occurring along the line of contact in the East of Ukraine. On February 24th, after weeks of increasing tension, the conflict escalated, with shelling and bombardment of major cities in all parts of the country including in the capital, Kyiv, while the pre-existing hostilities in Donetska and Luhanska oblasts (regions) have significantly intensified. 

Civilians are seriously affected: Each day’s targeted attacks on critical life-saving infrastructure, schools, kindergartens, power and heat mains, leave people without access to education, electricity and communication, as well as leaving them in cold houses during the winter season. Also, there have been attacks on nuclear facilities. Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant/NPP was captured by the Russian troops on February 24 after a tank attack that resulted in radioactive material discharge due to soil shift.  The attacks on Zaporizhia NPP, the biggest NPP in Europe, are still ongoing, there has already been a fire.

The active armed conflict is heavily impacting healthcare infrastructure, medical services and supplies. There are reports of 34 health facilities having been destroyed, some of which have ruined buildings, utility systems, disrupted power and water supply, while some are beyond repair, according to Viktor Liashko, Minister for Healthcare of Ukraine (6). The broken supply chain leaves affected people without critical medicines. The pharmacies also sustain damage, have very low stock. Access to medication is limited if people have to queue in front of drugstores amid air raid sirens. (7) The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a large impact on the health system and the population – incidence levels, although decreasing, remain high and vaccination coverage among vulnerable population groups remains inadequate. Stock ruptures due to supply chain disruption are already occurring. OMS has expressed dire warnings concerning the lack of availability of beds and oxygen needed for the treatment of severely ill COVID-19 patients.(8)

All these attacks violate the IV Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex: Regulations on Laws and Customs of War on Land of 18 October 1907. (9) and the IV Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949. (10).

Сivilians and civilian objects, including critical civilian infrastructure, shall not be the object of an attack. International humanitarian law also obliges parties to take all feasible precautionary measures to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and damage to civilian objects. In other words, residential areas shall not be targeted or used as shields. Likewise, the civilian infrastructure used for providing civilians with essential services, such as water, electricity and gas, shall not be attacked or put in danger of being damaged or destroyed as a result of a military presence nearby. Under the IV Geneva Convention and the UN Security Council Resolution 2286, health personnel and health facilities, such as hospitals and other facilities that have been set up for medical purposes, must be respected and protected in all circumstances. Medical units may not be attacked and access to them may not be limited.  

Ongoing fighting continues to claim lives, injure people, disrupt the economic situation and social nets. The foremost action that can prevent further suffering for those caught on the frontlines and their families is an immediate end of hostilities and upholding the ceasefire. Alongside casualties, psychological trauma escalates as time goes by, as people stretch to the limit of their coping mechanisms – both psychological and financial. 

Doctors of the World Spain expresses its extreme concern about the situation with life and health threats to civilians and calls on conflict parties and supporting governments to:

  • Immediately stop hostilities and open negotiations;
  • Open humanitarian corridors and ensure the safe evacuation of civilians;
  • Stop attacks on critical life-saving infrastructure, particularly medical facilities and protect objects that can bring an environmental disaster for the continent.
  • Protect the civilian population from attacks and aggression 
  • Provide safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance to the affected areas and to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel so that humanitarian organisations are able to provide critical assistance.
  • Condemn the use of indiscriminate attacks on populated areas and to demand that the parties in conflict and supporting governments abide to International Humanitarian Law and to the IV Geneva Convention that protects the rights of civilians during armed conflicts. 

About Doctors of the World

Doctors of the World is an international, humanitarian, health organization that defends the right to health and has been present in Ukraine for 7 years providing primary health care, mental health and psychosocial support, medicines, humanitarian assistance and other direct health services to people living in the Donbas region in the east of the country. Thanks to this work, Doctors of the World is well accepted in the region and has resumed its activity since the escalation of the conflict to address the emergency and respond to the needs of the people who are suffering the most and are inside Ukraine or moving to neighbouring countries.

Footnotes:

  1. Public Health Situation Analysis (3 March), WHO
  2. Ukraine: Humanitarian Impact Situation Report (As of 3:00 p.m. (EET), 9 March 2022) – Ukraine | ReliefWeb
  3. OCHA, Also : Ukraine: Public Health Situation Analysis (PHSA) Ukraine – 03/03/2022 [ENG] | HumanitarianResponse
  4. Ukraine: Humanitarian Impact Situation Report (As of 3:00 p.m. (EET), 9 March 2022) – Ukraine | ReliefWeb
  5. Ukraine: Humanitarian Impact Situation Report (As of 3:00 p.m. (EET), 9 March 2022) – Ukraine | ReliefWeb
  6. Data for the 6th of March.
  7. Public Health Situation Analysis (3 March), WHO.
  8. WHO Ukraine: Public Health Situation Analysis (PHSA) Ukraine – 03/03/2022 [ENG].
  9. https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/0/1d1726425f6955aec125641e0038bfd6 (Section 2, Chapter 1).
  10. https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/atrocity-crimes/Doc.33_GC-IV-EN.pdf

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