WHO has issued an appeal for funding to support Ukraine’s health services and care for the country’s refugees. To learn more, or to donate, visit the WHO Foundation.
In eastern Ukraine, a 16-year-old boy stands at the entrance of his family’s shelter. As the Russian military offensive began, the family decided their shelter was insufficient and prepared to flee. ©UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov
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Supported by donors, WHO takes prompt action to bolster health services in Ukraine
WHO has sent large shipments of medical supplies to Ukraine and released US$ 5.2 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to respond to the country’s urgent health needs.
WHO shipments have arrived in Poland bearing 76 metric tonnes of emergency health supplies bound for Ukraine. The shipments included supplies for surgery, trauma and health care, along with freezers, refrigerators, ice packs and cool boxes.
“WHO is on the ground, working with our partners to respond, to assess the impact of the conflict on the health of Ukraine’s people and its health system and to deliver essential medical supplies from our hub in Dubai,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week as the crisis unfolded.
WHO is also exploring solutions to maintain the country’s supply of medical oxygen and other life-saving treatments, amid disrupted supply lines.
The money in WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies 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 critical time in a crisis. Created in 2015, the Fund is one of WHO’s most powerful tools for responding in acute health emergencies.
A WHO shipment of medical supplies bound for Ukraine arrives in Poland on 3 March. ©WHO
Emergency appeal seeks funds for health services in Ukraine
The WHO Foundation has put in place a mechanism anyone can use to donate money to support a range of vital health services for people in Ukraine and for those who have fled the crisis into neighbouring countries.
“Migrants, older people and refugees are in a particularly vulnerable situation,” the Foundation notes in its appeal. “Support will help expand the capacity of emergency medical teams to respond to the growing needs of the population in this evolving humanitarian health crisis.”
WHO estimates that it will need US$ 45 million to support Ukraine and US$ 12.5 million to support neighbouring countries as they care for refugees.
Ukraine is facing a shortfall in medicines and supplies, including medical oxygen and intensive care unit beds, and needs urgent support for its health workforce.
WHO has published an appeal outlining the health needs and related costs arising from the crisis, noting that casualties have been reported across the country and are expected to rise.
“Emergency Medical Services, surgical departments and intensive care units are likely to become overwhelmed with trauma patients,” the appeal says. “Essential health services have been disrupted and are collapsing and jeopardize the treatment of chronic/non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.”
Medical oxygen supplies are dangerously low in Ukraine, WHO leaders warn
“You can’t be put on a waiting list for oxygen. You can’t stand in a queue for oxygen,” Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told a briefing last week. “Oxygen saves your life right now.” Above: a makeshift perinatal centre in the basement of a medical complex in Kharkiv. ©UNICEF/Oleksandr Brynza
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO Director General) and Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge (Director of the WHO Regional European Office) have called for critical medical supplies to safely reach those who need them and are working with partners to establish safe transit for shipments through Poland.
“The oxygen supply situation is nearing a very dangerous point in Ukraine,” the two leaders said in a joint statement on 27 February. “Trucks are unable to transport oxygen supplies from plants to hospitals across the country, including the capital Kyiv. The majority of hospitals could exhaust their oxygen reserves within the next 24 hours. Some have already run out. This puts thousands of lives at risk.”
The joint statement notes that medical oxygen is crucial for patients with COVID-19, injuries, trauma, sepsis, complications of childbirth and numerous other conditions.
Running a hospital while your country is under attack: a story from western Ukraine
As air-raid sirens sound, a patient is led to Novovolynsk Hospital’s 1950s-era bomb shelter. ©WHO
WHO staff reports from Novovolynsk Hospital, where patients are crowding into underground bunkers to shelter from the military offensive. Similar scenarios are playing out across Ukraine.
“In one day the air-raid sirens went off five separate times. Our patients are mostly the elderly. Some are on crutches and facing acute health needs. They cannot keep travelling down to the bunker,” said Oleh Shypelyk, hospital administrator.
A makeshift ward in Novovolynsk Hospital’s bomb shelter can accommodate 300 people. ©WHO