AS the war in Ukraine enters its third week, the humanitarian organisation CARE is deeply worried about the protection of civilians caught in the crossfire.
“Over the past two weeks, there have been numerous reports of impacts on civilian infrastructure, most recently even on a maternity and paediatric hospital,” CARE’s humanitarian advocacy coordinator Delphine Pinault, said.
“Bombs on hospitals that house expecting mothers, newborn babies and children at their most vulnerable, are an unacceptable breach of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.”
Since the beginning of the war, the World Health Organisation has confirmed at least 18 incidences of severe impacts on medical facilities in Ukraine, with fatal consequences in some instances and devastating damages to the infrastructure and equipment.
CARE strongly calls on conflict parties to minimise the effects of the war on civilians by respecting the principles of humanity, necessity, proportionality and distinction, the cornerstones of International Humanitarian Law.
“Civilians, and especially women, pregnant women and those with newborn and small children bear the brunt of this horrifying escalation of violence,” Ms Pinault said.
“We know from other conflicts such as Syria and Yemen that the specific needs of women, girls and children are far too often unmet in war times: pre-and postnatal care, safe delivery facilities, protection from abuse, exploitation and violence as well as safe shelters and adequate nutrition should be a priority for this humanitarian response.
“Ukraine also has a large population of elderly and disabled women who face even greater risks.
“Civilians always pay the highest price.
“This escalating violence – which is resulting in civilian deaths, including children – is totally unacceptable. The protection of civilians, including their safe passage to voluntarily leave Ukraine in whatever direction they choose, must be priority number one,” Ms Pinault said.
The road to safety is particularly dangerous for women travelling alone with their children, as men have to stay behind.
25-year-old Eugenie made the trip of 28 hours to reach neighbouring Romania with her 11-month-old baby Mikhael and 5-year-old Sofia.
“It was very scary on the road,” Eugenie said.
“We saw 8 missiles coming overhead at one point. My husband drove us to the border, to safety, and then he turned around and went back.
“I am so scared for him.”
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