Ukraine: As healthcare facilities come under attack and people are stuck at home, IRC warns of rise in preventable illnesses and deaths

  • Attacks on health facilities, transport and staff – more than 60 in just four weeks – limit access to vital services and supplies in Ukraine
  • Mothers are expected to give birth to 80,000 babies in the next three months without access to adequate health care.
  • IRC’s experience shows that when people are trapped and health and sanitation facilities are targeted, diseases like cholera spread and preventable deaths soar.

Ukrainian civilians face a catastrophic health crisis after 64 attacks on health facilities in the first month of the conflict. Lack of access to clean water and essential health care, as well as the possibility of an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases such as COVID-19 and poliomyelitis, could significantly worsen the current humanitarian crisis.

Mesfin Teklu Tessema, senior director of health at the International Rescue Committee, said:

“In Ukraine, the impact on healthcare in the first month of the conflict has been colossal and, as we have seen in other ongoing conflicts, it is likely to get worse, with the most vulnerable in paying the highest price. In protracted conflicts, access to basic health services is often limited and may even become non-existent. As a result, people with chronic illnesses, emerging illnesses or injured by the conflict itself will not be able to access the medical care they need. Our experience in places like Syria shows that protracted conflict and systemic attacks on health infrastructure can drive health professionals out of the country, leading to further strains on the system and lack of access. care for those who need it most.

“The impacts of the conflict in Ukraine on maternal and child health are already pronounced. More than 4,300 babies have been born in Ukraine since the start of the conflict and 80,000 births are expected in the next three months. As Ukraine’s healthcare system continues to crumble, the risk to new mothers and babies will increase.

“Just a week before the conflict escalated, Ukraine recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases. With less than 40% of the population vaccinated against COVID-19, displaced people in overcrowded reception centers and bunkers are at risk. Ukraine was also experiencing a polio epidemic and the escalation of the conflict interrupted a vaccination campaign in the affected region. In some areas most affected by the conflict, including Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, polio vaccination rates are below 50%.

“Ukraine also struggles with high rates of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). The conflict has weakened people’s ability to manage their condition, limited access to life-saving medicines and forced the closure of clinics people rely on for care, sparking fears of the spread. The IRC is concerned about the spread of these and other infectious diseases as conflict persists and water, sanitation and hygiene systems continue to be damaged.

Attacks on health facilities constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law and the IRC calls on all parties to respect their legal obligations. The IRC further calls for the protection of access to healthcare in Ukraine by ensuring the safety of providers and the free flow of medical supplies and equipment. World leaders must prioritize support for the most vulnerable, including women, children and the elderly.

The IRC is working with partners in Ukraine to provide evacuation services to people trapped by the conflict and provide essential items to those forced to flee, including blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing and aid cash. In Poland, the IRC is working with partners to provide critical information through an existing hotline, offering legal advice and psychological support to people dealing with trauma. The IRC also works to help people displaced by the conflict access essential services through social workers, interpreters and cultural assistants.

About IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore the health, safety, education, economic well-being and power of people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC works in more than 40 countries and more than 20 American cities to help people survive, regain control of their future and strengthen their communities. . Learn more at and follow the IRC at Twitter & Facebook.

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