UKRAINE: World Health Organization’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus notified on Monday that the global health organisation predicts a rise in COVID-19 cases in Ukraine in October, possibly destabilising hospital capacity and healthcare infrastructure.
“We are now seeing an increase in cases of COVID-19 in Ukraine. We project that transmission could peak in early October and hospitals could approach their capacity threshold,” Ghebreyesus told WHO’S Regional Committee for Europe conference in Tel Aviv.
“Oxygen shortages are predicted because major supply sources are in occupied parts of the country,” he said.
Oxygen cylinders are a much-needed necessity for patients afflicted with a wide range of debilitating diseases, including COVID-19 and those with other critical illnesses stemming from complications of pregnancy, childbirth, sepsis, injuries and trauma.
Russian aggression against Ukraine which manifested itself as Putin’s “special military operation” against its neighbouring country on February 24, has specifically targeted and greatly impacted healthcare facilities.
Since the inception of the crisis, WHO has confirmed more than 500 attacks on healthcare infrastructure in Ukraine by Russian shelling and military submission, resulting in some 100 casualties. Ghebreyesus has also said that the war could further spurn fears of a potential polio spread.
“We are also deeply concerned about the potential for the international spread of polio due to the gaps in immunization coverage and mass population movement linked to the war,” he said.
In comparison to the global healthcare and vaccination statistics, Ukraine ranges on the lower levels of inadequate vaccination coverage for both COVID and polio. Polio is a highly infectious disease that mainly affects children and can cause paralysis, resulting in death, in some cases.
This year, Israel, Britain and the U.S have all reported polio transmission in major cities, raising concerns about the infection spreading more widely.
During the nascent stages of the Ukraine crisis between late February till late March, WHO had confirmed reports of some 64 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine, killing at least 15 people.
Dr Jarno Habicht, the WHO representative in Ukraine, had called Russia’s meticulous aggression, a deliberate and diabolical attack on humanity.
“Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law, but a disturbingly common tactic of war, they destroy critical infrastructure, but worse, they destroy hope”, he said.
“They deprive already vulnerable people of care that is often the difference between life and death. Health care is not – and should never be a target.”
The war trajectory has witnessed several accounts of Ukrainian accusations against Russia of specifically bombing hospitals and related infrastructure including a children’s and maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol on March 9. The attacks have been called, by city officials, “a war crime without justification”.
The Mariupol incident sparked international outrage against Russia’s fiendish attack on innocent children and expectant mothers. Russia’s foreign minister tried to cover up the heinous crime by justifying its falsity with fake images and misinformation that it was a military base.
Russia’s false narrative destroyed the possibility of an emergency caesarean section that could have saved a pregnant woman’s baby. The woman died shortly after, due to a lack of necessary medical assistance.
Soon after this incident, the United States explicitly condemned Russia for its war crimes in Ukraine, singling out the bombardment of Mariupol and the attack on the maternity hospital. Russia had denied any allegations of wrongdoing.