Medical supplies from WHO reach Ukraine as part of United Nations aid convoy

Several tonnes of medical aid procured by WHO reached Donetsk last week as part of a United Nations convoy. WHO's contribution consisted of medical products for HIV and tuberculosis (TB), HIV test systems and drugs to treat infections in people with weak immune systems. The medical kits will provide treatment for over 38 000 people affected by HIV/AIDS and 5000 affected by TB in Donetsk and Luhansk.

A total of 62 tonnes of humanitarian aid was delivered to Donetsk, also including essential hygiene items, warm clothes, blankets, condensed milk powder and drinking-water. The supplies were procured by WHO, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Huge strain on health care and services

"Health care and health services have undergone dramatic strain in Ukraine's conflict-affected areas," said Dr Dorit Nitzan Kaluski, WHO Representative in Ukraine.

Access to care is extremely constrained due to the destruction of health facilities, financial problems (lack of payment of health professionals and patients' inability to make out-of-pocket payments) and a serious lack of medical supplies. Displaced people affected by TB remain unmonitored and HIV-positive people have no access to medication. In addition, surveillance for diseases is inadequate, and outbreaks could have catastrophic consequences.

"With the generous support of the European Commission, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the governments of Canada, Estonia and Israel, WHO is working with health-cluster partners to fill these many gaps and provide a lifeline for people needing access to care, vaccines and other emergency and public health services," added Dr Nitzan Kaluski.

Among the estimated 5 million civilians affected by the crisis in Ukraine, those living in combat zones are particularly vulnerable, as they have limited access to humanitarian assistance. The interagency convoy is only one of the many initiatives of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to provide relief aid to those in need.

With the humanitarian organizations operating in Ukraine, UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO are concerned about the absence of secure humanitarian access to deliver aid to children and families affected by the conflict across the country. Since March 2014, over 1 million people have been displaced within Ukraine, including more than 134 000 children.