On a Wednesday night in November 2022, surgeons at the Heart Institute in Kyiv were in the middle of an operation when the power went out. The backup generators kept live-saving equipment running as nurses held flashlights over the operating table.

Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electrical grid and energy infrastructure, along with direct attacks on health care facilities and workers, are taking a massive toll on the country’s health care system. And Ukraine isn’t alone. The latest annual report from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition identified more than 2,500 incidents of violence against, or obstruction of, health care in conflicts during 2023, a 25 percent increase from 2022.

Those incidents, which span from Myanmar to Mali, include violent attacks on health care workers and facilities, the use of drones to target hospitals and ambulances, and the occupation of hospitals to conduct military operations. At the same time, many attacks are carried out with impunity.

How should the international community respond to these attacks? What can be done to prevent them and to promote accountability?

Joining the show to unpack patterns of attacks on health care in armed conflicts is an expert team from the nonprofit organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and their local partners. PHR forensically documents human rights abuses, develops capacity in local communities, and advocates for justice around the world.

Dr. Houssam al-Nahhas is PHR’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) researcher where he documents attacks on health care, including unlawful detention of health care workers, and advocates for access to health.

Dr. Neema Rukunghu Nadine-Néné is a gynecologist at Panzi hospital in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and an expert trainer on the care of survivors of sexual violence for PHR and the Panzi Foundation.

Uliana Poltavets is PHR’s Ukraine Emergency Response Coordinator where she focuses on documenting attacks on health care in Ukraine since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022.

Dr. “B” Zemen is an Organizational Psychologist and board member of the Health Professionals Network for Tigray (HPN4Tigray), a nonprofit, and non-partisan organization that is committed to improving access to health care.

Listen to the episode by clicking below.

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