The fear now is that the influx of refugees into neighboring countries will shore up their health systems as well.

Mental health is also red in the list of WHO


When Russia invaded Ukraine, Katya was on her way to the hospital for an urgent operation for her 17-year-old daughter, Alinka, who has bone cancer.

His doctor at the National Cancer Institute in Kyiv called him and advised him to walk and go home for his own safety. The family soon realized that the only option was to continue Alinka’s treatment abroad.

“We (this) decided without hesitation, because this is not only a war with our occupiers, but also a war for the life of our child,” said Katya, who did not give her surname.

She and her daughter are now in Warsaw, Poland, and await further treatment for Alinka, whose condition is stable.

They are among more than a million people who have fled Ukraine to Poland to escape the escalating war. Another 700,000 have gone to neighboring countries such as Romania and Moldova. The United Nations has estimated that 4 million people may eventually migrate.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the exodus raises the risk of a regional health catastrophe on top of a huge toll in fighting deaths and destruction in Ukraine.

“(It) is not limited to one or two countries, but actually regionally and globally,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told Reuters in an interview late last week.

breaking point

In times of war, health care crises – lack of access to hospitals and treatment, disease outbreaks, malnutrition and so on – often kill far more people than bombs and bullets.

In Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there have been Russian attacks on hospitals, schools and homes in the past week. Serious drug shortages have arisen and neonatal wards have been turned underground to shelter from the bombings. Russia has denied targeting civilian infrastructure.

The fear now is that the influx of refugees into neighboring countries will shore up their health systems as well.

WHO’s Kluge said health services in Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova are still coping. “But this is the situation today. We have seen in the past that there is a breaking point in health systems, and the situation is very unpredictable.”

Those bearing the brunt of refugee arrivals fear the breaking point is near, pointing out that the number of beds and doctors may not double overnight, especially with health systems already depleted by two years of COVID-19. In.

“We can declare that we will treat all Ukrainian children, but I am afraid that this is simply unrealistic. We will provide the best possible help, but we cannot do miracles,” said the director of pediatrics at the Medical University of Warsaw Hospital. Chief Ernest Kutcher said. ,

The Polish health ministry said its hospitals have the capacity to treat about 7,000 patients from Ukraine.

long term challenge

According to Kate White, emergency program manager for the aid group Médecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), one million new potential patients will affect any country’s health system.

In the short term, international humanitarian agencies, national governments and volunteers are scrambling to send trauma kits, emergency medicines and ambulances to the border crossing points with Ukraine.

So far there are no regional hospitals on the Hungarian, Polish-Slovak or Moldovan borders, the UN refugee agency has confirmed.

The European Union, which has granted Ukrainian refugees temporary residency rights – including access to medical care, is also working to help member states Poland, and White said the EU’s standardized regulatory environment for shipping in the country Can accelerate emergency supplies.

Some refugees are also arriving further west to EU member states: Germany, for example, has registered 50,000.

But all participants in relief efforts said it was long-term or chronic needs, often in patients coming in without documentation, medicine or the ability to speak the local language, that could prove to be the biggest challenge.

These include treating people like Alinka as well as other diseases including diabetes, HIV and tuberculosis. According to the latest WHO estimates, Ukraine is a country of 44 million, with 2.3 million people living with diabetes, 250,000 people living with HIV, and about 160,000 cancer patients.

As with trauma injuries, the WHO has classified dealing with some of these situations as its top priority in its most recent report on the health impact of the Russian invasion.

Diabetes, COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and cardiovascular and respiratory conditions are all marked “red”, meaning “high levels of mortality” from the war’s impact on healthcare without attention of real risk. Evaluation reads.

In Warsaw, Kutcher said, nearly every refugee child arriving at his hospital has tested positive for COVID-19, perhaps because of the cramped conditions in which they fled Ukraine, where new coronavirus cases average around There were 27,000 per day, which was pre-war with only 35. Vaccination of % of the population.

mental health

Mental health is also red on the WHO list, as refugees face unimaginable trauma.

Katya understands this in Warsaw. She breaks down as she describes the arduous 24-hour journey she took with her ailing daughter to reach the Polish capital.

Her husband and three other children live in Ukraine, and she is deeply concerned about them, as well as how Alinka will recover from the trip and get the treatment she needs.

Katya said that what has happened to Ukraine in recent weeks is hard enough for a healthy adult, but the pressure on a sick child is unimaginable.

“You have to stop,” she said.


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