WHO assembly slams Russian attacks on Ukraine health facilities

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organisation had so far verified 18 attacks on health facilities, health workers and ambulances, resulting in 10 deaths and 16 injuries
AFP

WHO member states strongly condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine and attacks on healthcare facilities in a resolution overwhelmingly adopted on Thursday, further isolating Moscow on the international stage.

The resolution was carried by 88 votes to 12 at the World Health Organization’s annual assembly, while a Russian counter-resolution on the health crisis in Ukraine — making no mention of its invasion — fell flat.

The outcome “sends a clear signal to the Russian Federation: stop your war against Ukraine. Stop attacks on hospitals,” said Ukrainian ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko.

“The World Health Assembly confirmed that the responsibility for the health crisis in Ukraine rests exclusively with the Russian Federation,” Filipenko said.

The adopted resolution ssaid it “condemns in the strongest terms” Russia’s “military aggression against Ukraine, including attacks on healthcare facilities”.

It urged Russia to “immediately cease any attacks on hospitals” and other healthcare sites.

The resolution was brought by Ukraine and co-sponsored by nations including the United States, Britain, Japan, Turkey and European Union countries.

Of the 194 WHO member states, 183 had the right to vote. Eighty-eight voted in favour and 12 against, with 53 abstentions and 30 countries absent.

The resolution said the war was seriously impeding access to healthcare in Ukraine and having wider health implications across the region.

It urged Russia to respect and protect all medical and humanitarian personnel as well as the sick and wounded, in line with international law.

The resolution also called for safe, rapid and unhindered access to people in need of help, and the free flow of essential medicines and equipment.

Diplomatic isolation

The WHO has verified 256 separate attacks on healthcare in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24. The WHO said 75 people have died and 59 have been injured.

It said 212 attacks involved heavy weapons.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said he hoped other bodies would use the verified information and “take the necessary action for any criminal investigations that are required”.

Since the invasion, Ukraine and its allies have tried to maximise Russia’s diplomatic isolation, particularly within the United Nations.

The World Health Assembly is the annual gathering of the WHO’s member states and serves as the UN health agency’s decision-making body.

The Russian resolution on the health crisis in war-torn Ukraine — which made no reference at all to the full-scale invasion — was rejected by 66 votes to 15, with 70 abstentions.

Russian deputy ambassador Alexander Alimov rejected the outcome.

“Any attempts to isolate or to blame the Russian Federation specifically for the health situation in the country is unacceptable,” he said.

“Russia is bringing peace to Ukraine,” he insisted.

‘Genocide’

French ambassador Jerome Bonnafont, speaking on behalf of the EU, called the failed Russian resolution “a cynical attempt to deform the facts”.

Its text took and copied large chunks of the Ukrainian resolution — while removing all mention of Russia.

“The one thing they haven’t taken is responsibility for the health emergency they alone are causing,” said US ambassador Sheba Crocker.

“Russia is asking you to look away from the gruesome reality… it is wanton destruction of health care, services, and life for purely political aims, justified on the basis of lies and disinformation.”

Poland’s ambassador Zbigniew Czech said: “Let’s be honest: what we are witnessing in Ukraine is genocide.”

China’s representative said: “The integrity and sovereignty of all countries, including Ukraine, must be respected… It is in no-one’s interests to continue hostilities.”

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly called on Moscow to stop the war.

Russia asked Tedros “to visit in person in order to learn about Russia’s efforts to resolve the healthcare and humanitarian crisis”.

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