Statement by Ambassador Bathsheba Crocker
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva
Discussion of the Ukraine Health Emergency
World Health Assembly Agenda Item 16.3
Tuesday marked three months since Russia launched its unjustified war against Ukraine. Russia’s brutal aggression has displaced 8 million people inside Ukraine and unleashed a humanitarian crisis with 6.4 million people fleeing violence across international borders.
As of last week, the WHO verified 226 attacks on health care in Ukraine – almost three attacks per day since February. Not even maternity hospitals have been spared.
The UN has documented over 8,000 civilian casualties, including nearly 4,000 deaths, but the true toll this war has taken is far greater.
The risk of outbreaks has been exacerbated due to lack of access to water and sanitation, crowded living conditions, and poor immunization coverage. According to WHO, nearly 170,000 people in Mariupol alone are without access to safe water and at risk of a major outbreak. There is no reason for any of this. It is wanton destruction of health care, services, and life for purely political aims, justified on the basis of lies and disinformation.
And the devastation is not limited to Ukraine. Impacts are being felt across the world, with estimates that Russia’s war could push as many as 40 million more people into food insecurity and poverty this year.
We welcome the outcomes of the May 10 European Special Session and commend Ukraine’s efforts to prepare a resolution for this Health Assembly. We call on all of you, in a show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine and those around the globe suffering as a result of this crisis, to vote “yes” on this text.
What is the impact of this war if it not a health crisis? One that is diverting resources and focus from others in urgent need. What is the Health Assembly for if not to come together in support of all those impacted by health crises and take action when needed?
WHO absolutely is the body that should take up health crises. Russia is asking you to look away from the gruesome reality, to pretend it isn’t there.
Their cynicism knows no bounds. They’ve handed you a draft resolution of their own to consider, asking you to take them as champions of health and humanitarian relief. Incredibly, Russia has taken their text almost entirely from their failed Security Council resolution; the rest they’ve taken verbatim from Ukraine’s resolution. The one thing they haven’t taken is responsibility for the health emergency they alone are causing.
This isn’t about politicization. This is about the health of millions and the need to hold Russia clearly accountable.
This is the time and the place for this action, time to vote “yes” on Ukraine’s resolution. Conversely, if you vote in support of Russia’s resolution, you are standing with a country trying, quite literally, to destroy what this body stands for. If we, the World Health Assembly, cannot uphold the principle that one member state should not, must not, destroy the health care system of another in an unprovoked and unjustified war, what do we stand for?