The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday called for humanitarian access to Ukraine’s besieged city of Mariupol, and said over 90 attacks on health services had been confirmed in the war.
Speaking at a press conference in Lviv, WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge lamented that while health assistance had reached many “affected areas”, some were out of reach.
“It’s true some remain very difficult. I think a priority definitely, I think we all agree, would be Mariupol,” Kluge told reporters.
Located in a strategic southeastern spot between Russia-occupied Crimea and pro-Russian separatist regions in Ukraine’s east, Mariupol has been the scene of some of the fiercest assaults by Moscow’s forces.
Residents have spoken of utter devastation and dire conditions. The city’s population has shrunk from 400,000 before the conflict to around 120,000 today.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday accused Russia of blocking humanitarian access to the city to hide evidence of “thousands” of people killed there.
Kluge at the same time noted that the WHO had “delivered over 185 tons of medical supplies to the hardest hit areas of the country, reaching half-a-million people.”
The UN health agency also said it had confirmed 91 attacks on different health services, including supplies, ambulances and several hospitals.
“This is clearly a breach of international humanitarian law,” Kluge said, stressing that it was not the WHO’s mandate to attribute the attacks to actors and that they had only verified that the attacks had taken place.
The regional director also noted that “50 percent of Ukraine’s pharmacies are presumed closed and 1,000 health facilities are in proximity to conflict areas or changed areas of control.”