The World Health Organization warned Friday that the upcoming “harsh winter” could worsen the country’s humanitarian crisis, with more than 800,000 homes destroyed in Ukraine since the war began and thousands of people unable to access fuel or electricity.
After a week in which Russia fired a barrage of missiles at civilian targets across Ukraine killing more than 36 people and injuring dozens, the World Health Organization said the war had taken a heavy toll on the country’s health care infrastructure. The organization said it had confirmed attacks on 620 health care facilities since the Russian invasion in February.
Dr. Hans Henry B. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, at a statement The advent of winter, a spike in COVID-19 cases, and widespread attacks on civilian infrastructure pose a challenge in the war-torn country.
“Destroying homes and not getting fuel or electricity due to damaged infrastructure could become a matter of life and death if people are unable to heat their homes,” he said. He added that winter could be particularly dangerous for vulnerable groups – including the elderly and patients with chronic diseases.
“A lot of people in Ukraine live in precarious conditions, move from one location to another, live in substandard buildings or without heating,” he said. “This can lead to frostbite, hypothermia, pneumonia, stroke, and heart attack.”
Meanwhile, he said health care services are under pressure due to the recent escalation in the fighting and the internal displacement of millions of Ukrainians, as well as the exodus of refugees to neighboring countries.
Although Ukraine recently retaken dozens of cities in northeastern Ukraine and beyond, the World Health Organization said the restoration of territory has also emphasized the need to address the health needs of the local population suffering from the physical and mental effects of the Russian occupation.
The organization said an estimated 10 million people in Ukraine are likely to be at risk of mental disorders such as acute stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. She added that this assessment was made before the escalation of hostilities this week.
Mr Kluge also warned that with the recent sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in the country, the World Health Organization is preparing for an increase in respiratory illnesses this fall and winter as seasonal flu spreads at the same time as the coronavirus.
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