Ukraine emergency medical care: Call for support

February 21, 2014


Over the past few weeks, the violence in Ukraine has increased and many people have been killed or wounded during the fights in the centre of Kiev. So far, IFHHRO has received several reports and communications regarding the deplorable situation in the country.

Moreover, we have been informed on a number of occasions that health professionals are being denied access to the wounded at Maidan Square in Kiev, and that they are even being attacked or arrested themselves. We would like to point out that the right to health also applies to situations of war and civil unrest, and that it should never be ignored or denied by any party in a conflict. Health workers should be able to do what they are meant to do: healing people and saving lives.


Robert van Voren, Chief Executive of the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry (GIP), recently was at the scene to organize medical assistance. GIP’s Georgian counterpart, GIP-Tblisi, is a member organization of IFHHRO. Today, Dr. Van Voren issued a call for support on behalf of the medics at Maidan Square. He wrote:

“Over the past days I have been in Kyiv at the Maidan, trying to assist where possible and organizing a support program for the emergency medical services there. I have seen with my own eyes not only what is happening during these difficult days, when dozens of people have been killed and wounded, many of them deliberately killed by sniper bullets that even armoured vests couldn’t withstand, but I have also witnessed the unbelievable bravery of the volunteer medics that work at Maidan, providing the help that the authorities in all ways have tried to block or sabotage. Medics are deliberately targeted, both by snipers and riot police, they are beaten, abducted and even arrested for doing their professional duty.

In a country where twenty five years ago doctors had to swear the Oath of the Soviet Doctor, professing allegiance first to the Communist Party and only second to medical ethics, this adherence to the Hippocratic Oath is an enormous and symbolic feat. Also, it is rather telling of the government’s positioning that troops were instructed to deliberately attack medical personnel, a direct violations of all rules of engagement and conventions.

I am not asking for any political decision, who is right or who is wrong. I am asking you to help us to support the medics at Maidan. It is unknown what is ahead, whether we see the end to violence or just the beginning. What we do know is that we have many people who need emergency medical care, specialized treatment and surgery, and that medical personnel, victims and their families as well as scores of demonstrators will need help in coping with trauma and grief.”

Article about humanitarian assistance and the right to health
(in the journal Health and Human Rights, written by Brigit Toebes, lecturer in international law at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) and IFHHRO Board Member)