Operating under fire: The Effects of Explosive Weapons on Health Care in the East of Ukraine
Today, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic and PAX released a report documenting the severe humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas on the health care system in the area, and the people who depend on it. Although targeted attacks on hospitals are illegal under international law, their research shows that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, damage to the health care system – which may be unintended – is often the result.
The report, ‘Operating under fire: The Effects of Explosive Weapons on Health Care in the East of Ukraine‘ is based on field research along the contact line in the east of Ukraine. It details both the direct impacts that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has on healthcare facilities, such as damage to buildings and equipment, as well as its indirect impacts. These include loss of electricity, heat, water, and communications when explosive weapons impact on this infrastructure, as well as creating risks for ambulances, medical personnel, and patients.
Since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, the use of explosive weapons in Ukraine caused widespread damage and harm. The harm attributable to explosive weapons’ use in populated areas has had serious consequences for patient care. This has infringed on quality, accessibility, and availability, which are three elements of the right to health.
The report recommends that to minimise the effects of fighting on the civilian population , parties to the conflict in the east of Ukraine should immediately stop using explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, and take precautions to avoid harming medical facilities, transport, and personnel as well as the infrastructure essential for proper health care. Furthermore, in order to prevent future harm from the use of explosive weapons in any part of the world, the report recommends that states should stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, and conclude a political commitment to address the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.