WHO reports 64 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine

The World Health Organization has confirmed 64 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine so far, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

“WHO has now verified 64 attacks on health care since the start of the war, and we are in the process of verifying further attacks,” Tedros said in a media briefing.
“Attacks on health must stop. Health systems, facilities, and health workers are not and should not, [ever] be a target,” he said.

Dr. Mike Ryan, director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, shared statistics from the International Organization of Migration on the vulnerabilities of the millions of people who have been internally displaced in Ukraine, including that 32% of displaced households include someone who is chronically ill and nearly 20% include someone who is disabled.

Situations like those in Ukraine, Ryan said, frequently lead to conditions where even accessing health facilities “becomes a life-threatening experience.”

“This is dehumanizing at a level that is very hard to explain. It is very hard to understand. It is very hard to even imagine what people are going through in this situation,” he said.
“We have reached maybe for once in my lifetime an appropriate level of horror of what’s happening in Ukraine and particularly what’s happening in Mariupol. And I hope that is the new level of horror we will express in all of these situations around the world from now on.”

Speaking on the difficulty of working in Ukraine and other regions in crisis including Ethiopia, Ryan said “basic” principles around aid are being forgotten.

“It shouldn’t be upon the humanitarian community to have to constantly renegotiate and negotiate and then have bureaucratic blocks and stop, start, stop, start,” he said.

“This is not the way it is supposed to be. We are forgetting the basic principles of humanitarian law, when we end up in these interminable discussions about getting the most simple and basic of access to populations who desperately, desperately need us.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of his “intention” to use Thursday’s G7 and NATO meetings to “substantively” increase defensive lethal aid to Ukraine, a Downing Street spokesperson said on Wednesday.

“The Prime Minister set out his intention to use tomorrow’s G7 and NATO meetings to increase the pressure on Vladimir Putin’s regime and work with partners to substantively increase defensive lethal aid to Ukraine. Leaders would look to address Ukraine’s requests and ensure President Zelenskyy is in the strongest possible position in ongoing peace talks,” the spokesperson said following the call between the two leaders.
During the call, Johnson reiterated “his admiration for the bravery of the Ukrainian armed forces and their success in repulsing Russia’s onslaught.”

“[Zelensky] said the bombardment of civilian areas, including the siege of Mariupol, is unconscionable and demands a response from the international community,” the spokesperson added.

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President Joe Biden departed Wednesday on one of the highest-stakes presidential trips in recent memory, a moment for the US President to assume leadership of a newly united West.

His visits to Brussels and Poland could still underscore the alliance’s limits in ending the bloodshed in Ukraine, with Western leaders struggling to find ways to halt Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war. So far, punishing Western sanctions haven’t stopped Putin, and it’s unclear whether the new steps expected this week — including sanctions on hundreds of members of Russia’s lower legislative body and changes to NATO’s force posture along its eastern edge — will be different.

Yet as he departed the White House early Wednesday, Biden appeared intent on using his last-minute wartime visit to Europe to send a message. Asked what he’d say to his partners, Biden said he’d wait to deliver it face to face.

“All I have to say, I’m going to say it when I get there,” he said before boarding a seven-hour flight to Belgium.
Emergency summits of NATO, the European Union, and the G7 will focus on displays of cooperation in punishing Russia and providing support to Ukraine as it comes under fire. A stop afterward in Poland is meant to highlight the massive refugee crisis that’s followed Russia’s invasion as well as to reassure allies on NATO’s eastern edge.

For Biden, the last-minute talks are a venue to demonstrate the foreign policy credentials he promised as a candidate, when he vowed to restore American leadership and repair broken alliances. The war in Ukraine is widely viewed inside the White House as one of the defining challenges for Biden and his presidential legacy.

An emotional challenge from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, issued last week during his virtual address to Congress, now hangs over Biden’s entire trip: “Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”


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