Statement by Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe
Kiev, 17 May 2022
Good evening, Ukraine.
I would like to begin by expressing my deep gratitude and admiration to the health workers in this country, who have shown great courage and dedication since the beginning of the war. You did the impossible: you stood strong and saved lives.
To date, the WHO has confirmed 226 attacks on health care in Ukraine. That’s almost 3 attacks a day since Feb. 24. They have left at least 75 people dead and 59 injured. Two-thirds of all health care attacks this year confirmed by WHO around the world are in Ukraine.
These attacks are unreasonable, they are never OK, and they need to be investigated. An insult to the dedication and integrity of health workers wherever they go unpunished. No health professional should provide health care with a knife blade.
But this is all done by nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers – the medical groups of Ukraine. You keep the services of health and hope alive in the face of incredible sorrow and suffering. I salute your courage and I want you to know WHO stands with you.
This is my third visit to Ukraine this year, and the second since late February. Here I am for 3 main reasons.
First, I was lucky enough to meet some of the nation’s health heroes, to hear their stories and the challenges they face in delivering health care, and to understand how they continue to support WHO.
Yesterday I spent the day in Chernihiv oblast with the Minister of Health Viktor Liashko, where I visited many hospitals and health facilities and talked with professionals and patients. It can be sad and inspiring. It can hurt the heart due to the severe damage to the health system and the devastating impact on people’s lives. Inspiring because of the stories of strength and endurance.
I have heard of ordinary citizens coming to the rescue of patients in burned -out hospitals; to doctors and nurses who come out of retirement to volunteer their services for free; in boats used to carry medicines to people when roads are inaccessible; and many individual stories of courage and sacrifice.
Second, I am here this week to meet with national authorities and colleagues to gain first -hand insights of what further action is needed now.
Many health challenges lie ahead of us:
- 1 in 3 people with severe conditions struggle to access medications – 1 in 3 cases of tuberculosis are multidrug resistant – vaccine coverage for polio and measles remains below the recommended rate of 95%.
With our dedicated teams, WHO works with national authorities and partners, responding to the immediate and long-term health needs of Ukrainians-those returning after being forced to flee, those staying and those evacuated within the country. boundaries.
From what I saw yesterday while visiting Chernihiv, mental health services need to be increased further to reach the communities. According to the WHO, 1 in 5 people in conflict areas are likely to develop serious mental health problems. More than 16 000 people in Ukraine with moderate to severe mental health conditions face a shortage of essential medicines. I am pleased to see that the Government of Ukraine, with the strong support of the First Lady, has put mental health on the agenda.
According to the United Nations, sexual violence is a serious threat to most women and girls in areas of conflict. I am very concerned about reports of the rise of sexual violence and exploitation in Ukraine, which is ruining lives and is unacceptable. WHO is committed to meeting the health needs of survivors while doing all we can to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in the first place, along with Government and non-governmental organizations, which I recently met.
We are also concerned about the potential for a cholera outbreak in occupied areas, where water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed. That’s why we are already pre-positioning cholera vaccines at our hub in Dnipro.
Now, on day 83 of this war, we are beginning to better understand how Ukraine’s health system has been affected, and perhaps more importantly, how long it will take, as we embark on a long and challenging path. in recovery.
My third reason for coming here is to put heart health into the recovery and reconstruction efforts of Ukraine. Prime Minister Shmyhal and I agree – health is not everything, but without health there is nothing.
Although we are trying to meet the urgent health needs of Ukraine today, we are also looking to the future, and how we can help Ukraine’s health system rebuild a smarter, more resilient and more green.
For example, power supply is a persistent problem for many hospitals and health facilities that find themselves in active areas of conflict. WHO is working hard to deliver generators to fill this gap. But looking to the longer-term, we are working with the Ministry of Health to move towards renewable energy in the health system of Ukraine, ensuring reliability and sustainability for the future.
And just as your health workers represent hope in their local neighborhood today, so the future health system must provide people -centered services closer to the communities it serves – services that are responsive and proactive, such as mobile mental health, primary care and digital services.
Peace is a precondition for health. All our efforts to rebuild and reform can fail without peace. I would like to reiterate the call of the Secretary-General of the United Nations “for an immediate ceasefire and for an end to the Russian war in Ukraine”.
These days, I have witnessed the incredible positivity, intelligence and resilience of you, the Ukrainians. WHO is with you today, tomorrow, and for a brighter, healthier future.
This statement was issued by the press in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 17 May 2022.
Bhanu Bhatnagar: [email protected]
WHO/Europe Press Office: [email protected]