Ukraine-Russia: War has had ‘devastating impact’ on Ukraine’s health service, WHO warns

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Close to seven million people are internally displaced and the number of people who have fled to neighboring countries is close to four million, WHO said – accounting for one in four Ukrainians. Separate figures published by UNICEF found half of all Ukrainian children have been displaced since the war began.

The health body warned the problems had exacerbated the conditions of those suffering from noncommunicable diseases, with figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicating one in three of those who have been internally displaced suffering from a chronic condition.

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This comes as the Association for Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) called on the West to continue to support Ukraine as the war enters its second month, warning any weakening of the West’s military support for Ukraine would “fuel his ambitions to recreate a Soviet sphere of influence”.

A hospital in Brovary, Ukraine.

WHO said a number of hospitals had been repurposed to care for the wounded, which it said comes at the cost of essential services and primary health care, with treatment of chronic conditions such as cancer having “almost stopped”.

The organization said it had verified 64 incidents of attacks on health care in 25 days to March 21, causing 15 deaths and 37 injuries.

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“Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law, but a disturbingly common tactic of war – they destroy critical infrastructure, but worse, they destroy hope,” said Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO representative in Ukraine. “They deprive already vulnerable people of care that is often the difference between life and death. Health care is not – and should never be – a target.”

WHO said about half of Ukraine’s pharmacies are thought to be closed, while Covid vaccination and routine immunization has also come to a halt. Many health workers are displaced themselves or unable to work.

The AUGB said: “The invasion of Ukraine has shown the world that Ukrainians are determined to fight for their freedom with an inspiring strength and resilience that has stopped the Russian invading forces in their tracks. This has come at a huge cost to the civilian population. Russia’s total disregard for human life has created a humanitarian crisis, with thousands still trapped in bombed-out cities or no access to water or food.

“We call on the UK Government and its Nato partners to continue to support Ukraine in every way they can. The highest priority is to stop the war, by providing Ukraine with the weaponry and equipment it needs to fight back.

“This must include aircraft and air defences, as well as protective equipment for Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces. Western partners must not believe that Russia is serious about peace while Russia continues to kill innocent civilians. President [Vladimir] Putin understands only strength and any weakening of the West’s military support for Ukraine will simply fuel his ambitions to recreate a Soviet sphere of influence.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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