Statement by Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine
25 November 2022
Delivered at press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Centre in Kyiv
During the last week, WHO teams were able to enter Kherson with life-saving medical supplies to help treat people in the city, and we continue to bring in essential supplies today. WHO is providing medicines, supplies, and equipment to conduct consultations and surgeries for over 100,000 people. This complements what WHO has already provided including surgical supplies, generators, and medicines for chronic conditions) since 38 settlements in oblast became regained.
Similar to what has been observed in other newly regained areas, the population is expected to be the elderly with chronic conditions including stroke, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
The demand for medical services is high amid the onset of winter and due to damage to key infrastructure. There are fewer functioning health care facilities operating due to disruptions to water and electricity, evacuations and structural damage.
As the Regional Director noted, a major priority for WHO in Ukraine is ensuring the continuous flow of humanitarian health supplies to newly accessible areas.
Since February 24, more than 2,000 metric tonnes of medical supplies have been brought into the country in coordination with the Ministry of Health and our partners.
Areas including Izium, Kharkiv and Balaklaia in the Kharkivska oblast have been reached with ambulances, medicines, generators, trauma kits and much more.
WHO works across a range of programmatic areas to contribute to continuation of public health work, as well as the resilience of health system.
Let me share with you a few examples.
Together with the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Health we have trained health care workers with stress management techniques to strengthen the provision of mental health services in the country, and agreed a coordinated way forward on developing mental health and psychosocial services to address the needs of millions.
We have ensured that populations have access to timely vaccinations through the COVAX mechanism together with our partners, as UNICEF and member states. Millions of COVID-19 vaccines, so people have access to vaccines and booster doses, have been brought to Ukraine this way in the past months alone.
WHO supported mobile health units are ensuring access to health care is continued in some of the remotest parts of the country and that access to chronic care and non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, are being addressed.
We also continue trainings for thousands of health care workers across a range of health needs including trauma care, mass casualties, chemical exposure, epidemiology and laboratory diagnostics mean that these health care workers continuously bring new knowledge and energy to the health system.
This winter will present formidable challenges and with the coming of snow we will feel it more than ever.
Continuous attacks on energy infrastructure have repercussions for health systems which have repeatedly come under attack.
Access to health care has already been impacted as the result of this war as our health survey has shown.
It found that 1 in 5 people overall struggles to access medicines. This figure jumps to 1 in 3 in occupied and active conflict areas.
But without electricity, the machines in intensive care units stop working, surgeries can’t be continued, and cold chain facilities needed for vaccines and medicines will be disrupted. One can only imagine the potential impact this has for civilians across Ukraine.
Until now the health system has demonstrated resilience and has continued to provide care in the direst of circumstances, but now it is a stress-test we have not witnessed yet during nine months of war
Health Cluster partners have donated over 400 generators to health facilities (as of November) across country, and this is complementing all efforts authorities are making.
Our eyes now look forward to the coming days and weeks!
WHO is here to stay and will continue supporting the Ministry of Health so that health services continue to be delivered in Ukraine.
Lastly, my gratitude goes to the authorities, health leaders and our many partners on the ground for their continuous work and support to provide health care to their populations.
WHO stands alongside all of you as we continue to witness power cuts across the country.
I often hear stories from doctors and nurses who have witnessed unimaginable situations where care and support is needed.
I hear from doctors who willingly stayed behind to provide health care for their populations when they have needed it the most.
I hear heroic efforts from volunteers taking extra steps to support people in Ukraine
My deepest respect and thanks goes out to you.
Representative and Head of WHO Country Office in Ukraine