Doctors Without Borders reveal severe disruption to health care in Ukraine

Doctors Without Borders working on the frontline/Shutterstock Images

The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said Thursday March 23 that medical services have been critically compromised in war-torn areas of southern and eastern Ukraine due to medical facilities being destroyed, restrictions on civilian movements and the unpredictable behaviour of Russian invaders.

MSF is only able to operate in areas under Ukrainian control even though the organization has requested to work on both sides of the war´s front line.

After the fighting shifted to the southeast in late 2022, MSF assessed the needs of people in 161 communities in the Donetsk and Kherson regions that had been caught in the fighting.

“Our teams directly witnessed homes, stores, playgrounds, schools, and hospitals reduced to rubble,” said Christopher Stokes, MSF head of programs in Ukraine. “In some of the towns and villages where we work, the destruction was absolute.”

MSF staff conducted about 11,000 medical consultations for patients between November 2022, and February 2023,  who had remained in communities under Russian military occupation, most of whom were older adults with reduced mobility or chronic diseases, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

MSF found that chronic diseases had gone untreated for months where towns and villages were occupied by Russian forces, and food shortages had prevented patients from controlling their diets, leading to problems with eyesight and muscle function, mobility, and increasing their dependence on others.

MSF medical staff witnessed multiple attacks on health care infrastructure in 2022. In Mykolaiv in April and in Apostolove in June, they saw the apparent effects of cluster munitions on hospitals, forcing medical activities to be suspended for several days and effectively depriving patients of access to care.

On October 8, 11 and 15, MSF teams discovered the presence of antipersonnel landmines inside functioning hospitals.

“The use of landmines is widespread in frontline areas, but to see them placed in medical facilities is shocking: a remarkable act of inhumanity,” said Vincenzo Porpiglia, MSF project coordinator in the Donetsk region.

MSF urges all parties at war to uphold international humanitarian law and their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. Hospitals and health care facilities must never be targets of violence. Warring parties must allow the unhindered supply of life-saving medicines and medical supplies and provide safe access to independent humanitarian assistance for those in need.

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