GENEVA (AA) – This winter is “life-threatening” for millions of people in Ukraine, as half the country’s energy infrastructure is damaged or destroyed due to the war with Russia, further straining its healthcare system, the regional head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe has said.
“The devastating energy crisis, the deepening mental health emergency, constraints on humanitarian access, and the risk of viral infections will make this winter a formidable test for the Ukrainian health system and the Ukrainian people, but also for the world and its commitment to support Ukraine,” Hans Kluge said at a hybrid press conference from the capital Kyiv.
The WHO has so far verified 703 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine since the Russia-Ukraine war began nine months ago, Kluge noted, underlining that such attacks breach international humanitarian law and the rules of war.
He said Ukraine is facing a “therma-crisis,” referencing the dropping winter-time temperatures, “on top of a perma-crisis brought on by the war and the pandemic.”
The WHO expects 2 to 3 million more people in Ukraine to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety through the winter.
Those leaving their homes will face unique health challenges, including respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pneumonia, and influenza, and the severe risk of diphtheria and measles in under-vaccinated populations.
Kluge also expressed great concern for 17,000 HIV patients in Donetsk who may soon run out of critical antiretroviral drugs that help keep them alive.