'War makes everyone vulnerable,' says WHO from Ukraine

'War makes everyone vulnerable,' says WHO from Ukraine
An underground hospital in Ukraine, credit: WHO

In a statement on Friday from Ukraine, WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, said that Ukraine’s health system remains resilient.

“It’s a testament to its heroic workforce, sustained political commitment, and consistent budget support for health,” he said during his fifth visit in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion a year ago.

“Against the backdrop of a devastating one year of war, I am always amazed that despite the unforgivable attacks of health care services – now approaching 780 in the past year- despite the fatigue, stress and exhaustion of the health workforce, Ukraine’s health system remains so remarkably resilient.”

Data and evidence that the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and WHO have been gathering in recent months are providing greater clarity regarding the challenges that must be tackled urgently and the priorities that lie ahead – these include mental health, rehabilitation and community access to health services, he said.

An estimated almost 10 million people may currently have a mental health condition, of whom about 4 million may have conditions which are moderate or severe.

In response, the country has been rapidly scaling-up mental health and psychosocial support services, launching the All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program.

Dr Kluge underlined the importance of rehabilitation and referred to Prime Minister Shmyhal’s call for urgent action by all partners – including treatment for conflict-related injuries which are often horrific for adults and children alike.

He also mentioned that an increased supply of assistive products, such as wheelchairs, are required. WHO has already helped deliver over 4,500 such products to trauma hospitals, supporting rehabilitation for over 2,500 patients.

The latest WHO needs assessment survey finds that 1-in-10 say they struggle to access medicines for various reasons – including damaged or destroyed pharmacies and the unavailability of supplies. Moreover, almost one-third of people surveyed say they can no longer afford the medicines they need.

“War makes everyone vulnerable. That’s why we are coordinating nearly 200 partners to deliver various health services right across this vast country, reaching 8.5 million people last year. We aim to reach 13.6 million people with this support this year. That’s why we have increased our appeal for 2023 to $240m - $160m for Ukraine and $80m for refugee-receiving countries.”

He concluded with an appeal for “continued backing of Ukraine’s courageous people, and solidarity with its formidable health workforce.”

The Brussels Times

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