After 100 days of war, the Ukrainian health system is under great pressure and the World Health Organization (WHO) has increased its presence, both in Ukraine and in countries hosting displaced Ukrainians, to help respond to the growing health needs.
“This war has lasted 100 days too long, smashing lives and communities and jeopardizing the short and long-term health of the Ukrainian people,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO. “WHO is doing everything in its power to support the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and provide essential medical supplies and equipment. But the medicine Ukraine needs most is the one the WHO cannot provide: peace. We call on the Russian Federation to end the war.
The war has increased the need for health care while reducing the system’s ability to deliver services, especially in areas of active conflict. As of June 2, there had been 269 confirmed health incidents, killing at least 76 people and injuring 59.
“In 100 days of war, there have been more than 260 verified attacks on healthcare in Ukraine. These attacks are not justifiable, they are never acceptable and must be investigated. No medical professional should have to provide healthcare on the edge, but that is exactly what nurses, doctors, paramedics, medical teams in Ukraine are doing,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
“I have had the privilege of meeting many health workers on two visits to Ukraine since the start of the war. They keep vital services and hope alive in the face of incredible pain and suffering, and we salute them,” he added.
Some health facilities have been destroyed, while others have been overwhelmed by people seeking care for trauma and injuries resulting directly from the war. WHO has established centers in areas close to the conflict, such as Dnipro, to quickly reach areas most in need.
“WHO is committed to being present in Ukraine, now and in the longer term, to address immediate health challenges and support the reconstruction of the health system. We are redeploying teams across the country as access and security improve,” said Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine. “Health – mental and physical – must be at the center of Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction plans.”
To achieve this, WHO has launched an updated appeal for $147.5 million to meet Ukraine’s growing humanitarian needs, provide immediate health care and help the health system remain resilient in the longer term. Of this total, US$80 million is needed for in-country support, such as distributing medicines and providing life-saving health services, and a further US$67.5 million is needed to help countries in reception and reception of refugees, in particular Poland, the Czech Republic, Moldova and Romania.
The war has caused a massive increase in psychological damage and distress. Across the country, medical professionals report that the most common request now is for help with insomnia, anxiety, grief and psychological pain. WHO is working with the office of Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, to develop a national mental health program accessible to all.
WHO has responded to changing health needs in Ukraine by increasing staff numbers and reorienting systems, including our logistics system. This has enabled the delivery of more than 543 metric tons of medical supplies and equipment to the country, which are being distributed mainly in the eastern, southern and northern oblasts, where the needs are currently greatest. Supplies provided include trauma surgery supplies, ambulances, Ukrainian-made ventilators capable of continuing to operate even in the event of a power outage, electrical generators and oxygen equipment, including the construction of oxygen to help hospitals operate independently.
Another major need is training to deal with the effects of war – trauma surgery, mass casualties, burns and chemical exposure. Since February 24, WHO has trained more than 1,300 health professionals on these topics.
At the same time, WHO worked with the Ukrainian Public Health Center to strengthen disease surveillance and laboratory diagnostics, and with local authorities to rebuild immunization programs and essential health services. To complement the health system, WHO is also working with more than 40 emergency medical teams.