The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that they have received “several unconfirmed reports” of attacks on hospitals and health infrastructure in Ukraine, and has confirmed the attack on a hospital during the last week “in which four people died and 10 were injured, including 6 health workers”.
“The inviolability and neutrality of health care, including health workers, patients, supplies, transportation and facilities, and the right to safe access to care, must be respected and protected“Tedros pointed out.
Thus, the director general of the WHO has ruled that “attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law“.
At a press conference, Tedros also confirmed that this Thursday the first WHO shipment of medical supplies will arrive in Poland, which includes 36 tons of supplies for trauma care and emergency surgery to meet the needs of a total of 1,000 patients, and other health supplies to meet the needs of 150,000 people.
At this point, Tedros has emphasized that “WHO has always been present in Ukraine”, as the country has a WHO Europe office on its territory. “Before the conflict, WHO distributed emergency supplies to 23 hospitalsalthough our supplies positioned in Kiev are currently inaccessible,” he warned.
Need for a humanitarian corridor
That is why Tedros has insisted on the importance of building a humanitarian corridor to ensure that these supplies reach hospitals. “There is a urgent need to establish a corridor to ensure safe access for humanitarian workers and supplies and continued to reach people in need,” said the WHO Director General.
Thus, the United Nations health agency has so far released 5.2 million dollars from the Contingency Fund for Emergencies (4.7 million euros). “Our needs for the next three months are 45 million dollars for Ukraine (40.6 million euros), and 12.5 million dollars (11.2 million euros) to support neighboring countries to care for refugees,” Tedros detailed.
Lack of oxygen in hospitals
Thus, Tedros has also warned that the war will worsen the situation of covid-19 in Ukraine, a country where, in addition to its low vaccination rate, there is already a lack of oxygen for patients.
“Before the conflict, Ukraine had experienced a recent increase in Covid-19 cases. Low testing rates since the start of the conflict mean significant undetected transmission is likely“, Tedros assured.
“Together with low vaccination coverage, this increases the risk that large numbers of people will develop severe disease,” he said, adding that “critical oxygen shortages will have an impact on the ability to treat patients with Covid-19 and many other conditions.” During the press conference, it was noted that vaccination coverage in some regions of Ukraine barely reaches 20 percent, while in other regions it reaches 65 percent..
As reported by the director general of the WHO, at least three large oxygen plants in Ukraine have already closed. “We are looking for ways to access oxygen from neighboring countries and ways to safely deliver it where it is needed”has advanced Tedros, who has clarified that, although there are still reserves in the country, “the difficult thing is to get them to the cities that are isolated”.
For his part, the director of Emergencies of the World Health Organization (WHO), Michael Ryan, has estimated that “2,000 people are in need of oxygen to survive covid-19 in Ukraine.”
“This figure has not changed, but the number of children with pneumonia and people with war wounds has increased, and oxygen is something that cannot wait,” he warned. “If we fail to get oxygen into the health system, many people will die unnecessarily,” he warned.
“When you see nurses offering oxygen to babies in shelters, in hospitals, it’s devastating. We see women in basements taking care of these children. But when you’re 65, no one can take you down stairs to a basement,” he said. In reference to large number of older people who remain admitted to Ukrainian hospitals due to covid-19.
On the other hand, he has insisted that the supplies WHO is sending “are designed for the situation,” and include staples, “major” surgical supplies, and amputation kits. “I think this can give a more graphic idea of what is going on. The health system is going to have to put many of these victims back together“, Ryan lamented, to add that now the important thing is “saving the lives of those wounded in the conflict”.
“It’s important that we don’t reduce all of this that’s happening to just supplies that need to be delivered. We must not speak in abstract terms. We talk about the bodies, the bones of the people are breaking, and the lives are being cut short“, he urged.
WHO urges Russia to “rebuild” its position
For all these reasons, despite making it clear that the WHO “does not interfere in the political part of this conflict”, Ryan has urged “the parties, in particular, the Russian Government, to reconsider their position, taking into account the suffering of the Ukrainian people.
“The WHO has always been on the side of peace and has defended that there can be no health without peace,” Ryan added. “What we try to do is honor the commitment of this organization: to be on the side of those who suffer and leave the politics and punishment of those responsible to those who are in a better position,” he clarified. “That does not mean that we do not condemn attacks on civilians,” he added.
“We are not politicians, we are a health organization, but every time we are faced with situations like this, we urge peace, to end hostilities. The WHO has never been lukewarm in this regard“, has settled.
problem for chronic diseases
On the other hand, the WHO warns that the war in Ukraine will pose a supply problem for people undergoing cancer treatment or for people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, due to the shortage of insulin. “Not having access to diabetes supplies can result in very serious situations,” they point out from the United Nations agency.
For his part, Dr. Jarno Habicht, representative of the WHO Europe Office in Ukraine, has warned that, in places where there is a military offensive and where hospitals are besieged, “There are shortages of medicine, oxygen and electricity.”