Statement – Eastern Ukraine: a forgotten humanitarian crisis after 4 years of conflict

By Nedret Emiroglu, Director of the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases, WHO Regional Office for Europe

5 March 2018, Brussels, Belgium

High-level conference taking place in Brussels on 28 February 2018 organized by the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Dear Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank DG ECHO for organizing this Conference.

The picture presented gives us a clear sense of the complex situation also affecting the health of the people in Ukraine. The resources for health are severely stretched and the health of millions of Ukrainians is hampered by limited access to health facilities and services, and by insufficient funding for humanitarian health interventions.

WHO has been working with the Government of Ukraine and partners in providing humanitarian assistance, to save the lives of the most vulnerable. WHO action is taking place in both government and non-government controlled areas, while also bridging its interventions with recovery and development undertakings by supporting the Ministry of Health in strengthening the Ukrainian health system and public health functions, towards the achievement of universal health coverage.

The WHO Country Office in Ukraine, with its 4 field offices in the east, has been leading the Health and Nutrition Cluster since 2014.

Please allow me to share a few examples of the WHO and health partners’ support in the past 2 years, addressing critical needs by providing life-saving interventions:

  • About 2.5 million people living in conflict-affected areas were provided with essential and life-saving medicines and medical equipment, vaccines, emergency kits and diagnostics, etc.
  • Blood banks were upgraded and an estimated 50 000 people received safe blood transfusions.
  • Mobile health clinics provided 313 000 psychosocial support services in hard to reach areas along the contact line.
  • WHO supported the diseases detection and reporting systems, and provided training for 120 laboratory staff, and over 70 trauma care providers benefited from capacity development activities.

Despite these efforts, health needs continue to rise and the overstretched and fragmented health system can hardly respond. Over 150 health-care facilities have been damaged or destroyed.

Access to quality care and medications is limited. Women, children, adolescents – representing over 60% of the affected people – and the elderly are disproportionately affected by a severe reduction in health services, care and support.

Prevention, treatment and care for chronic diseases are also limited. This concerns people affected by noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases etc. In addition, there are those in the population suffering from tuberculosis (TB) including its drug-resistant form, and HIV.

Ukraine is 1 of the 18 high-priority countries for TB in the WHO European Region, and it is among the 30 countries in the world with the highest burden of multidrug-resistant TB. Mortality from TB is among the highest in the Region.

Ukraine has the second highest number of new HIV infections in the Region.

Ukraine ranks fourth in the world among countries with the lowest levels of immunization, including immunization against polio. We have already witnessed a polio outbreak and are now facing massive measles and diphtheria outbreaks.

Moreover, after 4 years of conflict, the Ukrainian population is in dire need of mental health services and psychosocial support: while access is dropping, the demand increases exponentially.

Millions are in need of care and WHO is ready to accelerate its support in partnerships to save lives.

Thank you.