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Winter in Ukraine during war poses a threat to millions of lives, according to the WHO

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According to the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe, this winter has been “life-threatening” for millions of people in Ukraine because the war with Russia has caused damage to or destruction to half of the nation’s energy infrastructure, further taxing the country’s healthcare system.

Hans Kluge stated at a hybrid press conference from Kyiv, the country’s capital, that “the devastating energy crisis, the worsening mental health emergency, restrictions on humanitarian access, and the risk of viral infections will make this winter a formidable test for the Ukrainian health system and the Ukrainian people, but also for the world and its commitment to support Ukraine.”

Kluge added that since the Russia-Ukraine war started nine months ago, the WHO has confirmed 703 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine, highlighting the fact that such attacks violate both the laws of war and international humanitarian law.

In addition to a perma-crisis brought on by the conflict and the virus, he claimed that Ukraine is currently experiencing a “Therma-crisis,” in reference to the chilly winter temperatures.

Following the commencement of the fighting on February 24, the WHO anticipates that an additional 2 to 3 million people in Ukraine may leave their homes in search of warmth and safety during the winter.

Winter’s focus on survival

This winter will essentially be about survival, according to Kluge, who emphasized that hundreds of hospitals and healthcare facilities are no longer completely operating due to a shortage of fuel, water, and electricity to satisfy bare necessities.

Days after the heaviest round of missile attacks across the country, he claimed that this was his fourth visit to Ukraine in 2022 in an effort to grab attention from around the globe.

The WHO regional director said he would meet with government representatives, medical professionals, and patients to express the UN agency’s ongoing support for the Ukrainian Health Ministry, government, and people.

And to express my appreciation and respect for the medical professionals in Ukraine who continue to act bravely, added Kluge.

He claimed that although 10 million people, or a quarter of the population, are without power, hundreds of thousands of locations around the nation, including private residences, schools, and hospitals, lack crucial gas supplies for cooking and heating.

In some regions of the country, temperatures are expected to drop as low as minus 20 C (minus 4 F).

Many families will be compelled to use alternate heating techniques, such as burning wood or charcoal or running generators powered by diesel or electric heaters, as they scramble to stay warm, according to Kluge.

These provide health concerns such as unintentional burns and accidents, and exposure to poisonous compounds dangerous to youngsters, the elderly, and those with respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.

Those leaving their homes will confront particular health difficulties, including respiratory illnesses like Covid-19, pneumonia, and influenza, as well as the serious risk of diphtheria and measles in populations with low vaccination rates.

The war, according to the WHO representative, was also having an impact on Ukrainians’ mental health.

Approximately 10 million people are already in danger of mental problems like acute stress, anxiety, depression, substance usage, and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to Kluge, as the conflict approaches its ninth month.

Additionally, he emphasized his grave concern for the 17,000 HIV patients in Donetsk who may soon run out of life-saving antiretroviral medications.

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