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International Council of Nurses condemns ‘profoundly shocking’ Russian attack on children’s hospital

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Nurses For Peace logo The ICN aims to bring nurses across the world together in solidarity with their peers in Ukraine

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has condemned a Russian airstrike on a children’s and maternity hospital in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. The attack on Wednesday left three people dead, including a child, and 17 injured and was the latest of a string of Russian attacks on health facilities, ambulances and carers which have been verified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during its invasion of Ukraine.

Describing the attack as ‘profoundly shocking’, Dr Pamela Cipriano, ICN President said: ‘It is unacceptable that innocent people, including children and pregnant women, have been targeted in this war. This represents a serious violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Health professionals and patients must be given special protection and respect.’

Howard Catton, ICN Chief Executive Officer, added his condemnation and warned that reports of the ongoing war indicate that attacks on healthcare facilities and workers ‘are very likely increasing’.

‘Nurses and other healthcare professionals working in conflict zones provide care, treatment and comfort to all sides in war zones, as well as to the innocent people who have been targeted or caught in the crossfire,’ said Mr Catton. ‘Civilians, medical personnel, transport and facilities are protected under International Humanitarian Law; any attacks are therefore in grave breach of these laws and need to be investigated.’

The ICN has launched a Nurses for Peace campaign to join nurses across the world in solidarity with nurses in Ukraine, and are asking for allies to sign a petition to condemn the illegal invasion and call for an immediate ceasefire, and to donate to the ICN's Humanitarian Fund.

‘The pandemic is not yet behind us but once again the people of the whole world are witnessing the unwavering courage and strength of nurses to protect our health and humanity,’ said Mr Catton. ‘We call on everyone to show their solidarity with Ukrainian nurses and support #NursesforPeace.’

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It is completely immoral and wrong on every level that humanitarian aid workers are singled out as targets in this war. The abhorrent actions now taken by the Russian aggressors have been demonstrated throughout recent history, most recently in Syria, Myanmar and Rwanda, and during the Second World War by the Nazi's, the Japanese and as retaliatory measures by the Soviet army. The Rule of International Law should prevail, but sadly history shows us that many evil perpetrators go unpunished.

The specific targeting of healthcare workers, civilians and domestic infrastructures are designed to destroy the spirit and moral of those oppressed - despite the increasing tragic loss of innocent life, the unintended consequence frequently strengthens the resolve of both individual and national resilience.

Irrespective of nationality, the bravery of nurses and others who are risking their own lives working to preserve life and alleviate suffering is humbling to observe.

Mike Paynter
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