World Health Organisation records 1,000 attacks on Ukraine's health system during war

Healthcare workers in Ukraine have been praised as heroes.
Healthcare workers in Ukraine have been praised as heroes. Copyright AP Photo/Andrii Marienko
By Scott Reid
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The international body said the impact goes beyond death and injury and is also affecting areas such as chemotherapy and childbirth.

The World Health Organisation says it has verified 1,000 attacks on health care in Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion - the highest number it has ever recorded in a humanitarian emergency. 


The 1,004 attacks over the past 15 months have claimed at least 101 lives, including health workers and patients, and injured many more. 

This has impacted health providers, supplies, facilities and transport, including ambulances, up and down the country. 

WHO considers acts of violence, obstruction or threats that interfere with the availability, access and delivery of health services as an attack. 

It says entire communities have been deprived of essential medical services that are needed to save lives, leading to an increase in illness and deaths, alongside the deterioration of health systems in the long run.

“These attacks threaten the safety and well-being of health workers and undermine care for people living close to conflict areas,” said Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine. 

“Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law. They deprive people of the care they need and have wide-ranging, long-term consequences.”

Dr Habicht praised the efforts of healthcare workers in the country as "heroic".

“Despite the challenges posed first by the COVID-19 pandemic and now well over a year of war, Ukraine’s healthcare workers remain amazingly strong, brave, and patient, day after day, saving lives and providing care to those in need," he said. 

"We stand in solidarity with them and all those working to ensure that everyone in Ukraine has access to the healthcare they need."

According to WHO data, significant challenges have been reported in providing specialised services, such as chemotherapy and mammography, due to a lack of staff and medical equipment. 

There are also difficulties in providing high-skilled childbirth services in some regions. 


Although primary healthcare remains widely available in war-affected regions, health costs have been increasing in the past half-year, with surveys conducted by WHO indicating that nearly a third of the population are finding it difficult to afford certain health services.

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