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The healthcare system is under attack as Ukraine faces its second winter of war.
Europe Ukraine

The healthcare system is under attack as Ukraine faces its second winter of war.

As Ukraine faces another winter of conflict, the World Health Organization cautions that the public health system will face significant strain as millions of civilians strive to stay safe and warm during the extended, harsh winter season.

According to Jarno Habicht, the World Health Organization’s representative in Ukraine, the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation has had a noticeable effect on public health and has caused an increase in disease burden.

According to him, the end of the war today would not alleviate the health challenges faced by millions in Ukraine. He pointed out that children and the elderly are especially vulnerable and facing difficulties as winter approaches amidst ongoing conflict.

On Tuesday, Habicht spoke to reporters in Odesa and shared that he and the Ukrainian health minister provided essential supplies and medication to Lyman, a city in eastern Ukraine located on the frontlines. Their goal was to guarantee access to treatment throughout the upcoming winter season.

He stated that health care workers and patients are constantly exposed to shelling, which is the harsh reality they face.

Ten million individuals who require assistance with their mental health

Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, 2022, the WHO has confirmed over 1,400 instances of attacks on healthcare facilities, resulting in numerous civilian injuries and causing major disruptions to the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

Habicht stated that the ongoing attacks pose a threat to the delivery of healthcare services. He also mentioned that the fear of these attacks has caused anxiety among many individuals.

According to him, there are over 10 million individuals in Ukraine who require mental health support. These needs range from anxiety to more severe conditions that require treatment from primary care and hospitals.

According to him, over 55,000 primary health care workers have received training to address mental health concerns. Additionally, community-based mental health teams are accessible in various areas to offer support.

Habicht stated that the needs caused by the war will have a lasting impact, especially in terms of mental health, which will continue for multiple generations. He stressed that the 7.5 million children in the country have been particularly affected by the devastating effects of the war.

“We have witnessed the effects of the war on mental well-being, nutrition, and vaccinations since the start of the invasion,” he stated. “Therefore, it is crucial that a comprehensive package of services is accessible. We have numerous partners, such as UNICEF, who are working to provide outreach services and ensure access to healthcare.”

Possibly more fatalities

WHO officials have reported that Ukraine suffers from low immunization rates for all vaccine-preventable diseases and, during the long winter ahead, will need to prepare for outbreaks of infectious disease along with difficulties arising from noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease.

Habicht cautioned that the colder, freezing winter temperatures may result in increased fatalities.

According to the WHO, approximately 7.3 million individuals will require humanitarian assistance in 2024. Out of this total, Habicht stated that the WHO and its collaborators plan to focus on aiding 3.8 million of the most at-risk population.

He also mentioned that healthcare professionals are preparing for a recurrence of the previous year’s assaults by Russia on Ukraine’s power system.

According to the speaker, there has been a rise in burns caused by heating and new heating devices due to the necessity for electricity and warmth following attacks on civilian infrastructure. The speaker also mentions the need to address the higher demand for burn treatments as a result of drone attacks, and the impact on civilian victims.

As winter approaches, Habicht explained that numerous healthcare facilities have been equipping themselves with generators and heating systems. They are also offering a space for individuals to seek warmth, charge their phones, and relax without worry.

Furthermore, he mentioned that Ukraine’s health care system has improved due to the country’s advancements towards joining the European Union.

Habicht stated that the progress in negotiations has the potential to greatly benefit public health. By improving the public health system, there is also potential for improved overall health for individuals.

I am hopeful, yet practical, that these modifications will require some time.