WHO has appealed for funding to support Ukrainian health services and care for refugees in the country. To learn more or to donate, visit the WHO Foundation.
In eastern Ukraine, a 16-year-old boy stands at the entrance to his family’s shelter. At the start of the Russian military offensive, the family decided that their shelter was insufficient and prepared to flee. ©UNICEF/Alexei Filippov
Backed by donors, WHO moves quickly to strengthen health services in Ukraine
WHO sent large shipments of medical supplies to Ukraine and released $5.2 million from its emergency reserve fund to meet the country’s urgent health needs.
WHO shipments have arrived in Poland with 76 metric tons of emergency medical supplies bound for Ukraine. Shipments included supplies for surgery, trauma and health care, as well as freezers, refrigerators, ice packs and coolers.
“WHO is on the ground, working with our partners to respond, to assess the impact of the conflict on the health of the Ukrainian people and their health system and to deliver essential medical supplies from our center in Dubai,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros. Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week as the crisis unfolded.
The WHO is also exploring solutions to maintain the country’s supply of medical oxygen and other life-saving treatment, amid interrupted supply lines.
Money for WHO’s Emergency Reserve Fund comes from 24 donor countries whose pooled contributions allow WHO to respond quickly to disease outbreaks and emergencies – often within the first 24 hours, a moment critical in a crisis. Established in 2015, the Fund is one of WHO’s most powerful tools to respond to acute health emergencies.
A shipment of WHO medical supplies bound for Ukraine arrives in Poland on March 3. ©WHO
the WHO Foundation has set up a mechanism that anyone can use to donate money to support a range of vital health services for Ukrainians and for those who have fled the crisis to neighboring countries.
“Migrants, the elderly and refugees are in a particularly vulnerable situation,” notes the Foundation in its appeal. “The support will help increase the capacity of emergency medical teams to meet the growing needs of the population in this evolving humanitarian health crisis.
WHO estimates it will need $45 million to support Ukraine and $12.5 million to help neighboring countries care for refugees.
Ukraine is facing a shortage of medicines and supplies, including medical oxygen and beds in intensive care units, and needs urgent support for its health personnel.
The WHO issued an appeal outlining health needs and associated costs resulting from the crisis, noting that casualties have been reported across the country and are expected to increase.
“Emergency medical services, surgical wards and intensive care units are at risk of being overwhelmed with trauma patients,” the appeal said. “Essential health services have been disrupted and are collapsing and jeopardizing the treatment of chronic/non-communicable diseases including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.”
Medical oxygen supply dangerously low in Ukraine, WHO leaders warn
“You can’t be put on a waiting list for oxygen. You can’t line up for oxygen,” Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a briefing last week. “Oxygen is saving your life right now.” Above: A makeshift perinatal center in the basement of a medical complex in Kharkiv. ©UNICEF/Oleksandr Brynza
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General of WHO) and Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge (Director of the WHO European Regional Office) called for essential medical supplies to reach those who need them safely and work with partners to establish safe transit for shipments through Poland.
“The oxygen supply situation is approaching a very dangerous point in Ukraine,” the two leaders said in a joint statement on February 27. “Trucks are unable to transport oxygen supplies from factories to hospitals across the country, including the capital Kyiv. The majority of hospitals could run out of oxygen supplies within the next 24 hours. Some are already exhausted. This puts thousands of lives at risk.”
The joint statement notes that medical oxygen is crucial for patients with COVID-19, injuries, trauma, sepsis, childbirth complications and many other conditions.
As the air raid sirens sound, a patient is led to the 1950s bomb shelter of the Novovolynsk hospital. ©WHO
WHO staff report from the Novovolynsk hospital, where patients are crowded into underground bunkers for shelter from the military offensive. Similar scenarios are unfolding across Ukraine.
“In one day, the anti-aircraft sirens went off five times. Our patients are mostly elderly people. Some are on crutches and facing acute health needs. They can’t keep going down to the bunker,” said hospital administrator Oleh Shypelyk.
A makeshift ward in the Novovolynsk hospital air-raid shelter can accommodate 300 people. ©WHO