“We fight for every patient here”

Portraits of resilience from health workers and patients in Kyiv, Ukraine

Anastasia, a 24-year-old intern and volunteer, has hardly left Kyiv’s Hospital 17 since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

She and many of her colleagues across Kyiv decided to move into the health facilities where they work to avoid taking long and dangerous trips home across the city.

Many brought family to live with them in spare rooms, hallways and basements. Some health workers, like infectious disease doctor Maryna (above) at the Institute of Epidemiology, also had to bring their pets.

“We have patients in serious condition, and who are bedridden,” said Maryna’s colleague Inna. “We can’t leave them.”

Health workers, patients and families in Ukraine’s capital city have faced fear and uncertainty with bravery and resilience — but, as World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said, “the life-saving medicine we need right now is peace.”

WHO continues to call on the Russian Federation to stop the war.

Health workers have had to equip basements for patient care during air raids.

“We try to keep the basement warm with heaters and blankets, but it’s still chilly and damp. Children get sick,” said Ms Sira, a nurse at the Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases.

Health workers have done what they can to protect themselves and their patients.

As of 25 March, WHO had verified 72 incidents of attacks on health care (between 24 February and 21 March) causing 71 deaths and 37 injuries.

WHO has condemned these attacks in the strongest possible terms.

Across Ukraine, more than 316 health facilities are along conflict lines or in changed areas of control, including 159 hospitals. A further 618 facilities are within 10 kilometres of the conflict line.

WHO has delivered about 150 metric tonnes of medical supplies to support trauma, surgery and primary health care in Ukraine. But the needs are staggering.

The disruption to services and supplies in Ukraine is posing an extreme risk to people with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV and TB, which are among the leading causes of death in Ukraine. Access to care for COVID-19 patients has also been severely limited.

Families and volunteers have stepped in to fill gaps across Kyiv.

In early March, the service that usually transports patients was not functioning when Remyr, 91, (above) was discharged after undergoing hip surgery. He had to be carried home by his daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

Health workers at Kyiv City Blood Bank said that more people have been donating blood since February.

“It’s good to donate blood and be useful for society at the same time,” said Dmyto, 38 (above).

Volunteers brought flowers to patients on International Women’s Day.

Roman presented a bunch of tulips to his wife Tetiana. He said that she was badly injured when their car was shelled as they tried to flee their home in Vorzel in early March. Their daughter Katya, 16, tried to protect her younger brother Ihor and her back and shoulder were wounded. The family is being cared for at Hospital 17.

Anesthesiologist Dr Serhiy has lived in his office at Hospital 17 since 24 February, sharing the space with other colleagues.

“We fight for every patient here,” he said.

Read the latest updates on WHO’s response to the Ukraine emergency

WHO’s emergency appeal for Ukraine and neighbouring countries

All photos: © WHO / Anastasia Vlasova

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The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

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