“As countries around the world are focusing on their response to COVID-19, it is fundamental that hospitals and healthcare institutions, as well as the patients they host, are protected from attacks and that healthcare professionals are able to save lives without threat or harm,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.
The statement follows several incidents deliberately targeting hospitals, including today’s cruel attack on a maternity ward in Kabul in which civilians, including newborns, mothers and healthcare workers, were killed and injured. The SRSG strongly condemns the attack and calls on the authorities in Afghanistan to pursue accountability and investigate and prosecute those responsible when identified. “It is further worrisome to note that attacks on hospitals have also taken place recently in other situations on the Children and Armed Conflict agenda,” she added.
The SRSG warns that with the ongoing fight against COVID-19, schools and hospitals – especially the latter- are more than ever viewed as strategic assets and could be even more targeted by ruthless belligerents. She reminds all parties to conflict of their obligation to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, with special regard to the protection of schools and hospitals and the needs and welfare of children. “I remind all parties to conflict that attacks against schools and hospitals, as well as those against education and health workers, is a grave violation against children and will be reported accordingly,” said SRSG Gamba.