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A damaged building is pictured, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 29 2022. REUTERS/RICARDO MORAES.
A damaged building is pictured, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 29 2022. REUTERS/RICARDO MORAES.

Geneva — Ukraine, backed by dozens of other countries, has written to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) regional chief calling for an urgent meeting on the effect of Russia’s invasion on health and healthcare, a letter obtained by Reuters on Friday showed.

The letter, sent this week by Ukraine’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, Switzerland, where the WHO is headquartered, is signed by 38 other members of the agency's European region, including France, Germany and Britain.

Addressed to Europe regional director Hans Kluge, it urged him to convene a meeting “no later than 9 May” and referred to attacks on health facilities, disrupted vaccination campaigns and concerns about the risk of radiological and chemical events.

The letter also suggested that Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus address the matter at a meeting of the World Health Assembly in May, when the body's 194 member states are set to decide on key reforms to prepare for future pandemics.

The WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters is also seeking comment from Russia, which is one of 53 members of the WHO’s European region.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

The WHO has recorded 177 attacks on healthcare facilities and infrastructure in Ukraine, resulting in 73 deaths since the start of Russia’s invasion on February 24, without assigning responsibility.

“These attacks deprive people of urgently needed care, endanger healthcare providers and undermine health systems,” the WHO said in a report on Ukraine on Thursday.

In the same report it said the health system in hard-hit eastern Ukraine had collapsed, adding that nearly all clinics and hospitals in the Luhansk region were damaged or destroyed. 

Reuters

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