WHO delivers life-saving health supplies and expertise in Ukraine
The health care system in Ukraine is bearing a heavy burden from the ongoing war. As hostilities continue into their second month, people’s access to health services is increasingly impeded. Safety concerns, attacks on health, mass displacement and lack of public transport make it challenging for people to avail of basic health care.
The sound of air raid sirens has become a stark reality of everyday life. Basements of health facilities across the country, like this one in Brovary (above) near the capital Kyiv, is used by patients and personnel alike, to shelter.
The complexity and scope of the humanitarian needs in Ukraine is staggering.
Medical supply chains have been disrupted due to active hostilities, posing an extreme threat to people with chronic and severe diseases who are in desperate need of regular treatments and courses of medication.
On February 24, the day the war started, the World Health Organization (WHO) shifted to running an emergency operation and repurposed many of its staff. Every single movement and delivery of supplies is carried out in close coordination with national health authorities, other UN agencies and WHO’s partners on the ground. Some five weeks into the conflict, WHO and its partners have reached approximately half a million people with supplies; the bulk has gone to regions east of the river Dnipro, where the need is especially dire.
WHO has been transporting medical supplies from Dubai to Poland, from Poland to WHO’s warehouse in Lviv in western Ukraine, and from the warehouse to individual health facilities across the country, to help ensure basic health services can continue in those areas.
Early on, to add extra capacity to local health services and to provide additional expertise, we called on international emergency medical teams (EMTs) to deploy. More than 20 teams are now operating in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
Although supply lines remain fragile amid the war, the flow of WHO life-saving supplies to various oblasts of Ukraine is relatively steady. Nonetheless, there are still cities in the country that are currently unreachable, which is why WHO continues to urgently call for safe, unimpeded humanitarian access.
WHO’s team in Dnipro is setting up a logistical and operational hub to ensure faster and better organized deliveries to where needs are greatest. We are also coordinating efforts with UN partners to establish safe passage for people wanting to leave areas heavily impacted by the hostilities.
“What we are delivering — and where — meets the very needs of people on the ground, where Ukrainian health workers are working around the clock in unimaginable circumstances. A team of trained health-care professionals can with one WHO trauma kit — containing surgical equipment, consumables and antiseptics- save the lives of 150 wounded people. In other words, delivering 10 such kits means 1500 lives saved,” says Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine.
“The needs are immense and growing day-by-day. However, as WHO, we’re not able to respond to those dire needs without safe access of our staff and convoys. The city of Mariupol is just one example. Emergency health supplies are ready on trucks to go there but, as of now, sadly cannot proceed,” added Dr Habicht.