Ukraine. Millions at risk as health problems exacerbate vulnerabilities

Budapest/Geneva, March 10, 2022 – As the conflict continues in Ukraine and a cold front descends, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns of the dire health situation – including the spread of COVID -19 – and the impact on the mental health of millions of people both inside and outside the country.

Fighting in Ukraine continued for two weeks and no one was spared. An estimated 18 million people – a third of the country’s population – will need humanitarian assistance, and more than 2.3 million people have fled to neighboring countries. As the lives of millions of people are turned upside down, the spread of disease, the worsening of pre-existing health conditions and the increase in mental health problems are causing real concern.

“Many affected people were already vulnerable before the conflict and now face an even more difficult situation as they lose their homes and livelihoods, are forced to seek refuge wherever they can or flee their country in search of safety. . They urgently need food, water and shelter, but also urgent medical care, protective measures and psychosocial support to avert an even greater humanitarian catastrophe,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC Regional Director for Europe.

At Przemyśl station in Poland, a woman was crying and being comforted by a Polish Red Cross volunteer. When asked what happened, she said she had spent all night and all day waiting for the train from Ukraine that would bring her daughter to safety. The train had finally arrived, but her daughter had not.

People fleeing conflict often experience very distressing situations, loss and trauma, which can impact their mental health and ability to cope. Psychosocial support will be needed in the days, weeks and months to come.

In conflict situations, public health measures to prevent the spread of disease become extremely difficult. People are forced to shelter in crowded spaces with limited sanitary conditions or limited access to basic health services, which increases the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. The spread of COVID-19 is of particular concern as Ukraine’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in Europe, with only a third of the population having received the first dose. Ukraine also has one of the highest rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the world.

Adding to what is already a dire situation, temperatures are dropping below zero. There is an urgent need for warm clothing and adequate shelter to protect people in temporary locations and those queuing at borders, the majority of whom are women, children and the elderly, from the elements.

“Our Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in Ukraine and neighboring countries are doing everything possible to support everyone in need, especially those most at risk, including unaccompanied minors, single parent families , the elderly and the disabled. They have the full support of the IFRC and our global network, but more funding is desperately needed as millions of lives are at stake. Even if the armed conflict were to end tomorrow, the humanitarian consequences will be felt for years to come.” , he added. said Bischoff Ebbesen.

Notes to Editors

In Ukraine, Red Cross teams are providing first aid and first aid training, assisting in reception centers and transporting people to safety, and distributing basic necessities, including warm clothing. Despite the mortal danger they themselves run, 3,000 new local volunteers have mobilized to support their neighbours.

In Hungary, Red Cross teams run three health service points on the border. They also run reception and collection centers where they receive people coming from Ukraine and distribute relief items.

In Poland, where 60% (over one million) of people from Ukraine are fleeing, the Polish Red Cross has activated more than 20 rescue teams, including around 450 doctors, who provide 24-hour health care and psychosocial support out of 24 in five of the eight border points as well as in major cities.

In Moldova, Moldovan Red Cross volunteers and staff provided support to approximately 200,000 people who left Ukraine. They are at all border crossing points offering hot tea, hot food, diapers and personal protective equipment including face masks and sanitizer. Volunteers also help out at drop-in centers, help prepare meals and play with the children.

In Russia, Red Cross teams have delivered 187 tonnes of aid, including clothing, hygiene kits, baby products and household items. They provide psychosocial support, have opened a mental health support hotline and, to date, have provided 756 consultations. More than 160 calls have reached the Restoring Family Links hotline.

In Romania, local Red Cross volunteers and staff are at various border crossings distributing food, water, basic necessities, hygiene items and thousands of SIM cards to people in need. The Red Cross is helping local authorities equip reception centers with tents, bedding, food and hygiene and childcare items. The volunteers also visit the placement centres, play with the children and help local staff to prepare food and other necessary aids.

In Slovakia the Red Cross is at all three border crossing points across the country, where teams are providing services such as heated shelters, referrals to essential services and first aid. As people quickly leave the border area, the Red Cross is rapidly stepping up its support along the roads. This support includes psychosocial support and the provision of child-friendly spaces; social services, in particular referral to services such as education, health care and registration for legal status; providing first aid, health assessments, clinical care referrals and COVID-19 testing.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

In Budapest: Kathy Muller, [email protected]+1 226 376 4013

In Budapest: Norra Pierre, [email protected]+36 70 953 7709

In Geneva: Caroline Haga, +358 50 598 0500, [email protected]

Learn more about the IFRC emergency appeal for Ukraine and affected countries.

Photos and videos:

UkraineRomaniaHungaryCroatiaPolandSlovakiaRussiaMoldovaIFRC Newsroom

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