Ukraine: Head of UNICEF appalled by attack on maternity hospital
By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA): The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Wednesday she is “horrified” by an attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine which has reportedly left young children and women in labor buried beneath the rubble.
“We do not yet know the number of casualties but fear the worst,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“This attack, if confirmed, underscores the horrific toll this war is exacting on Ukraine’s children and families.”
According to Ukrainian authorities three people including a six-year-old girl were killed in the attack.
Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov said 17 others had been injured in the attack, including pregnant women.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the attack on the hospital calls for the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. “People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?”
But Russia’s first Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, claimed the building was no longer a maternity hospital and had been taken over by Ukrainian troops.
“That’s how fake news is born,” he tweeted.
Polyanskiy said Russia had warned on 7 March that the hospital had been turned into a military object from which Ukrainians were firing.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova justified the bombing of the hospital by saying, Ukrainian “nationalist battalions” were using the hospital to set up firing positions after moving out staff and patients.
Russell said that in less than two weeks since Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine, at least 37 children have been killed and 50 injured while more than 1 million children have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries.
“Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure – including hospitals, water and sanitation systems and schools – are unconscionable and must stop immediately,” she said.
“I am horrified by the reported attack…in Mariupol,” said Russell. “The children of Ukraine desperately need peace.”
She said UNICEF renews its call for an immediate cease-fire and urges all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect children from harm and to ensure that humanitarian actors can safely and quickly reach children in need.”
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said before the attack was reported that “so far, the WHO has verified 18 attacks on health facilities, health workers and ambulances,” in which there were 10 deaths and 16 injuries.
The day before, the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, told journalists at a press conference that the “WHO strongly condemns these attacks on health care services,” after reporting attacks on health services and workers.
Additional report by The Muslim News
[Photo: Bombed buildings on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine by Russian attacks on March 09, 2022. Photographer: Andrea Carrubba/AA]
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