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1,336 Attacks on Ukraine’s Health System Since Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion Demand Accountability: PHR

At the two-year mark of full-scale war, ongoing hospital bombings and violence against medics cause devastation and warrant prosecutions

Ukraine’s health care workers, facilities, and other medical infrastructure have been attacked at least 1,336 times since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to new data from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and international and Ukrainian partner organizations. With Ukraine’s health system attacked an average of nearly two times per day since February 2022, PHR urges immediate investigations and accountability for these possible war crimes.  

“Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine’s doctors, hospitals, and ambulances continues to wreak havoc on the lives of Ukrainians. Ukraine’s brave health workers risk bombardment, detention, and torture by Russian forces, and continue to work despite power outages from Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid,” said Uliana Poltavets, Ukraine emergency response coordinator for PHR. 

While nearly 200 Ukrainian health care workers have been killed, hundreds of other medics remain in Russian captivity. Ukrainian health care workers who return from Russian captivity have reported experiencing harsh conditions, torture, and ill-treatment, alongside numerous other detainees held by Russian forces. 

“Russia must immediately release the hundreds of illegally detained Ukranian health care workers in Russia. We also call for the international community to investigate and prosecute the widespread attacks on health in Ukraine. Until those responsible are held to account, there is no end in sight to these devastating attacks in Ukraine – and perpetrators everywhere are emboldened,” said Poltavets. 

A newly updated dataset and interactive map depicts the high civilian toll from Russia’s war of aggression:  

  • 1,336 total attacks on health care   
  • 699 attacks damaged or destroyed hospitals/clinics 
  • 84 ambulances attacked  
  • 198 health workers killed  
  • 137 health workers injured 
  • 75 attacks affecting children’s hospitals  
  • 54 attacks affecting women’s health facilities 
  • 60 attacks that damaged or destroyed a hospital’s energy and/or water supply system or limited a hospital’s ability to access these utilities 

The map reflects attacks on health care in Ukraine from February 24, 2022, until December 31, 2023. The map is a joint undertaking by eyeWitness to Atrocities, Insecurity Insight, Media Initiative for Human Rights, PHR, and the Ukrainian Healthcare Center. 

In December 2023, PHR and partners published “Coercion and Control: Ukraine’s Health Care System Under Russian Occupation.” The case study documents how Russian authorities have systematically sought to target Ukraine’s health care system to cement their control over the civilian population in Ukrainian territories under occupation. Russia’s actions, including detaining and threatening health care workers; requiring forced changes of nationality as a precondition for gaining access to health care, a practice known as ”passportization”; and repurposing health facilities for nonmedical purposes, have compromised civilians’ right to health and imperiled access to essential health services. The study builds on a landmark February 2023 report that documented the scale and scope of Russia’s assault on Ukraine’s health care. 

“From Ukraine to Ethiopia, from Gaza to Sudan, we are witnessing the erosion of the norm that hospitals are protected under international law,” said Sam Zarifi, JD, PHR’s executive director. “Combatants are bombing clinics, targeting medics, and obstructing access to lifesaving care. It is time for the international community to step up to prevent attacks, investigate and prosecute violations, and hold perpetrators to account.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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