WHO increases humanitarian efforts as crisis in Ukraine continues
The members of the health cluster for Ukraine, under WHO’s leadership, came together on 11 February to discuss status reports from local field offices and strengthen the response to the growing humanitarian crisis. The reports included information on the provision of health care to children, the activities of medical emergency public health units (MEPUs), Roma communities and centres for internally displaced persons (IDPs), and updates on health information tools and needs assessments. The following briefly highlights WHO activities in the region.
Monitoring IDPs’ health
WHO has reported that about 100–150 IDPs per day have arrived by train in Kharkiv from eastern Ukraine since 21 January. Upon arrival, these people are greeted by officials of state medical departments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), volunteer psychologists and doctors, who are ready to provide medical and psychological consultations. People with acute conditions are referred to hospitals, and basic medications for pain relief and respiratory diseases are administered.
WHO is gathering data on and mapping population movements and medical needs; it shares the data in coordination meetings to ensure that care continues to be available in areas in need.
Information sharing and relief coordination
In Donetsk, the newly established WHO field presence is providing information updates and coordinating with health-cluster partners. The main activities include assessing the needs of hospitals and rehabilitation centres, and monitoring drug requirements. Surveillance of communicable diseases is a top priority because reported cases of hepatitis A and influenza there have sharply increased since the hostilities began.
In Sloviansk, 2388 IDPs had been registered as of 30 January, the majority coming by rail from Debaltseve. Temporary settlements for housing up to 1000 people have been built for those fleeing combat areas. The primary health issues among this group are complications arising from noncommunicable diseases, mental health complaints and trauma. Owing to the closing of the corridor from Debaltseve to Artyomovsk, no new arrivals had been reported as of 12 February.
Provision of emergency health kits
As part of the response effort, WHO has facilitated the delivery of 11 interagency emergency health kits for distribution to MEPUs and hospitals in Donetsk and Luhansk. Expected to arrive in Ukraine soon, these kits will be used to provide care for 110 000 people in both government-controlled and other areas. At present, hospitals are requesting urgent assistance in providing treatment for leukaemia, kidney failure, diabetes, hypertension and tuberculosis.
Training in emergency and primary health care
WHO will hold four training courses in February and March 2015 to address the Ministry of Health’s request for improved emergency health care for children, particularly in eastern Ukraine. The training will focus on the provision of emergency triage and treatment for childhood illnesses. In addition, health information tools have been strengthened to more easily facilitate the rapid assessments of health facilities, and the creation and work of MEPUs. In Kyiv, Mariupol and Severodonetsk, continuing training in emergency and primary health care is being delivered to further enhance MEPU teams’ response capabilities.
MEPUs, which are initiated by WHO in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Red Cross, provide free-of-charge primary health care to IDPs in different locations around Ukraine.