The World Health Organization says escalating fighting in Ukraine is preventing emergency medical supplies and health personnel from reaching many people in need of help.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly two months ago, the World Health Organization has delivered some 218 metric tons of emergency medical supplies. Roughly two-thirds have reached their intended destinations, mostly in the east and north of the country where the need is greatest.
WHO has released 15 generators from its warehouse in Lviv Tuesday with plans to deliver them this week to hospitals across the country. Speaking from Lviv, WHO spokesman, Bhanu Bhatnagar, says three will be sent to Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. That is where heavy fighting is underway, and the power supply is badly affected.
Other generators, he says are destined for places such as Kharkiv, which has been devastated by Russian shelling, and the besieged city of Mariupol.
“We will only move the generators to their final destinations when we can ensure the safety of our personnel and the precious cargo they are transporting. These generators will help meet the sort of minimum energy needs of medical and surgical units of referral hospitals, where power supply is either limited or non-existent,” he said.
Bhatnagar says access to a reliable power supply is critical, noting even a momentary power failure can have serious consequences for patients. He says providing care in this dangerous environment is becoming ever more difficult.
As of now, he says WHO has verified 147 attacks on health care facilities, ambulances, and medical personnel. He adds at least 73 people have been killed and 52 injured. Attacks such as these, he says are hampering efforts to reach the people who need help.
“An increase in fighting in certain parts of the country could really threaten our supply chains in and out of some of the affected areas. To mitigate this risk, we are ramping up our donations to the Ministry of Health. We are also assessing the possibility of pre-positioning supplies in additional locations to sort of build a network of warehouses to reach affected areas,” said Bhatnagar.
Mariupol has been subjected to heavy bombardment by Russian forces since the start of the war. The city has been demolished, thousands of people reportedly have been killed and thousands more remain trapped.
Bhatnagar says WHO fears the worst for the health system of Mariupol. He says no one has access to the city. But he adds WHO is positioning generators and other supplies nearby. This, so it can bring in life-saving medicines and equipment the moment this becomes possible.