One year into the war in Ukraine, the longest year, its people are threatened by an unprecedented health crisis. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Russian offensive on February 24, Doctors of the World takes stock of a year that seemed endless for those affected by the hostilities. The NGO calls on the international community to do everything in its power to alleviate their suffering, to prevent more civilian deaths and facilitate the most basic services for their lives, such as health care to be provided.
After a year of intense hand in hand work with the Ukrainian health system, the organisation warns, that the health system is at serious risk following numerous attacks on health infrastructures and due to a lack of medicines and health supplies as well as reductions in the movement of the population that prevent them from getting medical care.
A HEALTH CRISIS
Hospitals and health centers are working to meet the challenge of caring for sick people despite frequent interruptions of electricity, heating and the functioning of medical equipment. “The damage to hospitals and health centers condemns the Ukrainian population to poor medical care,” warns Pepe Fernández, president of Doctor of the World in Spain.
Moreover, the groups that suffer most from this situation are those who were already vulnerable before the war, especially the chronically ill, the disabled, the elderly, pregnant women, or people with cancer.
Reaching health centers with the necessary humanitarian supplies is no easy task. Transporting and delivering donations of medicines and medical consumables is particularly complex due to damaged roads, infrastructure and the lack of safe routes.
EXHAUSTED MENTAL HEALTH
The numbers are shocking: more than 7,000 dead and 11,000 injured civilians, 17.7 million in need of humanitarian aid, almost 6 million people displaced within their country and 8 million if refugees. But many of the injuries caused by the war in Ukraine remain invisible. As its people continue to experience traumatic events with no end of the conflict in sight, the mental health of the population massively deteriorates.
“Mental health is one of the biggest issues in Ukraine, especially for the people who have been displaced twice” says Doctor of the World general coordinator Bashar Kailani. “For example, a large number of people affected by January’s residential building airstrike in Dnipro with dozens of casualties, had previously been displaced from Donetsk oblast. Those who survived had to witness the deaths of their fellow internally displaced people. Just when they thought they were as safe as they could be.”
Doctor of the World is addressing the problem by including psychologists in its mobile units, which are providing health care to displaced people and other members of the population. In addition, Doctors of the World carries out psychological group sessions as well as mental health trainings to nurses, midwives, social workers and other professionals, and is offering support through a mental health hotline.
SAVING LIVES WITHOUT OBSTACLES
Doctor of the World is calling on all parties involved in the conflict to ensure unhindered humanitarian access. All violence against civilians and humanitarian personnel as well as civilian infrastructure must finally be brought to an end.
Despite growing humanitarian needs, particularly in eastern and southern Ukraine, humanitarian access to Russian-controlled territories continues to be denied and it is near impossible for aid workers to reach the communities most in need. Humanitarian organizations are calling for the international community to conduct urgent and targeted advocacy on humanitarian access at the most senior levels and as a standalone priority.
WHAT DOCTOR OF THE WORLD DOES
● 29,000 people received direct health care from Doctor of the World
● 17 mobile clinics were deployed across Ukraine to reach the most vulnerable people.
● The organisation supported more than 120 health facilities and over 90 temporary collective centers
● 886,313 people were supported through Doctor of the World donations of medical supplies and other vital items
Doctors of the World has been operating in Ukraine since 2015. Before Russian offensive, the organization was working mainly in the East of the country, providing comprehensive primary health care, including sexual and reproductive health, mental health and psychosocial support services in government and non-government-controlled areas of the oblasts Donetsk and Luhansk.
Since the outbreak of hostilities, Doctor of the World has directed its efforts to support the public health system, supporting health infrastructures with medicines, medical equipment, medical consumables and maternity kits, among others, in various provinces of the country.