Ukraine

Russian troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. This page provides updates from our monitoring of how the invasion affects health care and aid operations.

The morning of 24 February 2022 saw coordinated ground, air and sea-launched missile strikes, artillery fire and airstrikes against Ukrainian military and civil Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I) facilities beginning at 0430 (local time).

Since then, civilian infrastructure has been affected in all towns under attack. Curfews imposed on cities under attack affect access to health care and makes it very difficult for health workers to move between home and work.

While exemptions are in place for persons seeking urgent medical care and workers in critical infrastructure, moving between home and work and accessing health facilities remain very dangerous and often impossible. Public transport is unavailable during curfew hours.

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Since 24 February 2022

Health Care

Impact on the health system

Our media monitoring has shown that a number of hospitals have been damaged. As there is a high risk of any hospital being hit by explosive weapons causing indiscriminate destruction, many hospitals have moved patients into their basements. Most of these cellars were never built to accommodate patients. The sick, wounded, and young mothers rest on blankets and mattresses on the floor without proper hospital beds.

Curfews and roadblocks also make it very dangerous – if not impossible – for patients to reach hospitals. Ambulances have been shot at.

There are now shortages of key drugs and other lifesaving necessities because the supply chains to hospitals and pharmacies have been interrupted. In particular, there is a shortage of supplies that are needed more now than in normal circumstances. For example, the anxiety of the war means that many young mothers have difficulties lactating. As a consequence, a much higher than normal proportion of newborns need help to survive but stocks of baby formula are running low. 

In several places crucial infrastructure such as water and electricity has been interrupted. Hospitals cannot function and patients are at great risk at dying from totally avoidable complications.     

This has put patients with long-term health needs, such as children with cancer or patients needing regular dialysis, in life-threatening positions. Expecting and young mothers and their babies are also very vulnerable.

Impact on Health workers

Health workers are at risk of being injured and killed when hospitals are attacked.

Health professionals are under enormous pressure. Because of the fighting outside, they can no longer move between home and work. Health workers therefore have to choose between staying either with their own children and elderly parents or their patients. Those health workers who stay day and night with their patients in the basements provide incredible care.

But there is a limit to what even the most amazing people can deliver when working in a much reduced team in the very difficult circumstances.  The physical and mental effort required of those who remain and work 24/7 under very challenging conditions is tremendous. Health workers are no longer able to follow the well-established protocols. Instead, they constantly have to improvise as best as they can. There are few breaks from work. Health professionals’ stoicism is tested to the limits when they have to watch a child die, they know they could have saved if only they had the equipment and the drugs they needed. 

Resources

Christina Wille talks to The Hindu

Christina Wille talks to The Hindu

The sick, wounded, and young mothers, rest on blankets and mattresses on the floor without proper hospital beds. Hospitals cannot function and patients are at great risk of dying from totally avoidable complications.

Read the full interview with our director Christina Wille and The Hindu’s Bindu Shajan Perappadan on the condition of health care professionals and health facilities in Ukraine.

Ukraine: The Human Price of War

Ukraine: The Human Price of War

Watch this video by CSIS Global Health Policy Center with SHCC chair Len Rubenstein on indiscriminate attacks on civilians and hospitals. Will Russia continue its pattern of indiscriminate violence?

Hunger and Conflict

Conflict and hunger are closely linked. But in complex ways.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas have damaged food production sites. For example, on 7 March an industrial bakery in Makariv was hit by shelling. As ports on the Black Sea are blocked, trade has come to a hold. Commercial ships have come under fire.

The impact of the invasion of Ukraine on food security
Overall, Ukrainians have up to now shown exceptional resilience and care for each other that has included sharing of food.

In besieged towns, however, food shortages are reported. This affects the vulnerable faster than others. Breastfeeding mothers, for example, report difficulties producing milk if they do not eat sufficiently.  There are also reports of some Russian soldiers going hungry  and loot food due to reported logistical difficulties in the Russian army.

It is not the first time that Ukraine experienced starvation. In 1932 and 1933 Stalin organised mass starvation in Ukraine on such a scale that it was referred to as “Holodomor,” a combination of the Ukrainian words for hunger (holod) and extermination (mor). 
While food security for Ukrainians if of paramount importance at this time, the conflict in Ukraine will also affect food security beyond the areas directly affected by violence.

Food for the world
Ukraine has been an important food produce feeding people and animals far beyond its borders.
Countries already vulnerable to food insecurity, like Yemen, are likely to experience much higher food prices as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Equally, countries in the Middle East, where food prices contributed to the Arab Spring in the early 2010s, also rely heavily on Ukrainian food imports. Countries like as some of Ukraine’s most important importers, Indian and Chinese, meat production will also be affected.

Bleak future
The invasion has devastated land that farmers need to plant. If they will be unable to do so this year, will face difficulties in storing and moving food, the world will see food prices rising. This will affect the poorest most and is likely to create further instability far away from where the violence is used.