WHO Responds to Growing Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine

On March 3, 2022, the World Health Organization has asked top-level officials who were involved in the Russian invasion to ensure access for delivery to essential medical, surgical, trauma supplies to help the people of Ukraine and refugees in neighboring countries affected by the conflict.

As the world grapples with an ongoing shortage of medical supplies, including drugs, vaccines, and equipment, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday that the situation could worsen in the coming weeks and months. It’s important to set up a secure corridor to get these supplies into the country, particularly as pre-prepared supplies placed in 23 hospitals across the country remain largely inaccessible at the moment.

The COVID-2019 pandemic is making things more difficult. Hospitals in Ukraine are often isolated from each other, and so are their patients. At the same time, an estimated 65% of people in Kyiv is fully immunized, but the rate varies from city to city, ranging from 20% in cities of Donetsk and Lugansk to 100% in some cities in western Ukraine.

Add to that the fact that there are an estimated one million people who have already fled Ukraine into neighboring states, potentially spreading the virus as they move or find theirselve in crowded situations. The current situation in Ukraine means that the risk of coronavirus transmission is increasing, according to WHO officials.

“WHO is deeply worried by the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”

The first shipment of medical equipment and supplies for victims of the earthquake in Nepal is scheduled to leave Dubai on March 2 and arrive in Poland on March 3rd. On the plane will carry 6 metric tons of medical equipment and supplies for trauma care and surgical emergencies to meet the needs of one hundred thousand people, as well as enough medical supplies to help an additional 150,000 people.

So far, the WHO has spent $5.2 million in U$S. dollars from its contingency fund to support the refugees in Ukraine. It plans on spending an additional $45 million in the next three months.

Attacks on Health Care Workers

We are deeply concerned about reports of health facility attacks and health worker deaths. We have received several unconfirmed attacks on health facilities and healthcare workers, and one confirmed incident in which a hospital was attacked, killing four people, including six health workers.

“The past few days, my primary discussions with the Ukrainian Minister of Health has been how to ensure that healthcare workers are protected during the current COVID-19 outbreak.”

“A lot of them who I spoke to yesterday are working from the homeless shelters or have repurpose­d their hospitals.”

During times of conflict, international law protects access to health services, especially for civilians.

Supporting Ukraine’s Health System

The WHO’s primary function now is to maintain and preserve the health system in order to serve the people of Ukraine. We will do everything in our powers to make that happen.

The WHO has been providing medical support to hospitals in eastern Ukraine since the start of the conflict.

“WHO is not planning to go into Ukraine.” We have always been working in Ukraine. We have been working there for years, helping the government improve its healthcare system.

But the WHO cannot help the health system unless it has access to the resources needed to deliver services, he added.

“At the moment, in the midst of the turmoil, it’s very difficult to see how that can happen in the coming days,” he said. “The tragedy that has unfolded for the people of Ukraine was so avoidable and so needless.”

Don’t Forget the People Behind the Numbers

Many WHO officials are experienced at responding to humanitarian crises during conflicts. Some of them have been doing so for a long time and have developed thick skin. “But when you see nurses mechanically breathing life into babies in the basement of hospitals, you know that even the hardest of us have struggled to witness this.”

And it’s hard to carry adult patients who need intensive care down into a basement. So many patients in the ICUs are being cared for by physicians and nurses while the bombs drop around them.

It will be important throughout the conflict to not just talk about supplies, Ryan said. “These are people’s bodies and people’s bones that have been broken,” he added. There aren’t enough doctors, nurses, and hospitals to provide everyone with lifesaving care. “Something has to change.”

There is only one answer: “There is no single magic bullet,” said Bruce Aylward.

“How can we solve this problem?” Number one: Stop the war,” he said.

“The second thing you do when it comes to COVID-19 is to protect your health care system.” You’ve got to keep your services safe. The third thing you should do is to prioritize your vaccinations for your most vulnerable people, including for yourself.

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