WHO urges Russia to commit to peaceful solution in Ukraine

UN body documents 18 attacks on health facilities, workers and ambulances since Russian invaded Ukraine less than two weeks ago

A doctor takes shelter in the basement of a perinatal centre as an air raid siren sounds in Kyiv. Reuters
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The World Health Organisation has called on Russia to commit to a “peaceful resolution” to the war in Ukraine and to allow unimpeded access to humanitarian aid for those in need.

WHO chief Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said some of the main health challenges facing Ukraine are hypothermia and frostbite, respiratory disease, heart disease, cancer and mental health problems.

He said that while the WHO has delivered 81 metric tonnes of supplies to Ukraine and is establishing a pipeline to send more equipment, “the only real solution to this situation is peace”.

Addressing a press briefing, Dr Tedros said the WHO had documented 18 attacks on health facilities, workers and ambulances since Russia invaded Ukraine less than two weeks ago.

His message was echoed by Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, who compared sending medical supplies to Ukraine to “putting bandages on mortal wounds right now”.

“This is becoming an extremely complex health response, with frequent population movements, shifting lines of control, increasingly difficult to access, and a very asymmetric type of warfare also building up.

“It's very hard to know where front lines are, it's very hard to do deconfliction, it's very hard to do the kind of humanitarian operations that are needed to provide the kind of significant support,” Dr Ryan said.

Sending supplies to hospitals is great, but they need clean water, power and engineers to operate, he said.

“All of this infrastructure and engineering support is needed to keep your average hospital going in a normal situation. In the middle of a shooting war, it's almost impossible,” Dr Ryan added.

“This health crisis will not stop, it will only get worse — unless we have a ceasefire, unless we have peace.”

Updated: March 09, 2022, 5:33 PM