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Health minister pledges support for Ukraine as WHO confirms attacks on health care

Jean-Yves Duclos speaks during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. The health minister  is pledging to rouse support from his international colleagues for Ukraine's besieged health system.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Canada's federal health minister has pledged to rouse support from his international colleagues for rebuilding the besieged health-care system in Ukraine, where facilities and ambulances have come under attack during the Russian invasion.

"I know not just Canadians but everyone around the world are shocked and distressed about the devastating impact the invasion is having on Ukraine's vital health-care workers, health infrastructure, and access to medical supplies," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos wrote Thursday to his Ukrainian counterpart, Dr. Viktor Liashko.

Duclos also wrote that Ukraine will have Canada's support at the ongoing G7 health ministers meeting in Berlin, and next week at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

"We will discuss how the G7 can assist in the future rebuilding of Ukraine's health system."

The letter was also directed to G7 health ministers and Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, the international health agency at the United Nations.

Earlier this week, the WHO called for an investigation into Russian attacks on health facilities in Ukraine, having confirmed more than 200 such attacks since the conflict began. 

"I am so disheartened, as a medical doctor myself, to hear the doctors telling of how the health-care facilities, all of them have been touched by heavy fire," WHO European regional director Hans Kluge said of his recent visit to Chernihiv Oblast in Ukraine.

"Health care should never be a target."

Duclos told the Ukrainian health minister that he would co-sponsor his resolution to underscore the importance of protecting the health-care workforce, medical aid and health infrastructure in Ukraine. 

While Canada has already provided health services and aid to Ukraine, Duclos says it must do more.

"We can and must continue to provide support and assistance," he wrote. 

Duclos has also asked for a bilateral meeting with Liashko to discuss details. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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