Doctors renew calls for medical neutrality in Ukraine after a year of war

by Tim Tonkin

The BMA remains in solidarity with Ukraine and its medical workforce, with health services devastated by a year of conflict

Location: International
Published: Friday 24 February 2023

The BMA says it remains in steadfast solidarity with Ukraine and its medical workforce, one year on from the start of Russia’s devastating and illegal invasion.

The association has today reiterated its calls for an end to the war in Ukraine and for the neutrality of healthcare services and professionals to be respected, on the first anniversary of the start of the conflict.

Figures verified by the UN reveal that, as of 13 February this year, 18,955 civilians have been killed or injured as a result of fighting, and the conflict has led to more than 18 million border crossings by Ukrainians seeking safety in neighbouring countries.

With the Russian military accused of inflicting indiscriminate attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities, the WHO (World Health Organization) surveillance system for attacks on health care states there have been 801 recorded attacks on health professionals and facilities in Ukraine since the invasion last year, with nine having taken place since the start of 2023.

This overall figure includes 135 injuries and 101 deaths and is overwhelmingly credited to the use of heavy weapons such as missiles, mortars and bombing.

The war has also had a significant impact on Ukraine’s health system and its ability to provide care due to disruption of services and shortages in medical supplies. The WHO warns that one in 10 Ukrainians are struggling to access medications.

Support for Ukrainian doctors

Latifa Patel BMA representative body chair Latifa Patel

Reflecting on the anniversary of the start of the invasion, BMA representative body chair Latifa Patel said the association remains as committed as ever both in its support for Ukraine and its people and to upholding the principle of medical neutrality.

She said: ‘Today marks the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, a conflict that has led to thousands of deaths and resulted in millions of men, women and children being displaced from their homes amid ongoing fighting.

‘The determination of Ukraine to resist those who seek to take their freedom is humbling, as has been the solidarity and support shown by the international community to date. The price that continues to be paid by Ukraine’s population and its healthcare professionals, however, is one that is truly harrowing.

‘In standing shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in Ukraine, the BMA reaffirms its unshakeable commitment to the principle of medical neutrality and calls for an end to attacks on healthcare services, those that staff them and their patients.

‘The BMA will continue to do all it can to support Ukrainian doctors who have sought shelter here in the UK, as well as press the Government to do all it can in providing humanitarian aid to those affected by this war.’

Following the invasion last year, the BMA rapidly approved the release of £25,000 in funding to support the work of the British Red Cross and Ukraine Crisis Appeal through its BMA Giving appeal.

The association has also sought to provide practical assistance to Ukrainian medical professionals seeking safety in the UK through its refugee doctor initiative, as well as offering free and confidential counselling and peer support services to anyone affected by the war.

Further support is also available through the Ukrainian Medical Association of the UK.