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Red Cross Warns of Burgeoning Health Crisis in Ukraine

Sofia Boiko, 90 years old, arrives at the Ukrainian Red Cross center in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on March 28, 2022. Boiko who is traveling alone and other people evacuated from regions that have been attacked by the Russian army in Mykolaiv district.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is warning of a burgeoning health crisis in Ukraine, which is likely to last longer than the conflict itself.

Francesco Rocca, president of the Red Cross Federation, recently visited Ukraine and Romania to see conditions in the region since Russia’s military invaded Ukraine five weeks ago.

He says no one in Ukraine is left unscathed by the ongoing conflict. He estimates 18 million people, or one-third of the population, will require humanitarian assistance. Additionally, he says about 6.5 million displaced people inside the country and more than 4 million refugees in neighboring countries will need international aid.

Refugees from Lviv, Ukraine, arrive at a Red Cross headquarters in Rome, March 22, 2022.
Refugees from Lviv, Ukraine, arrive at a Red Cross headquarters in Rome, March 22, 2022.

He expresses particular concern about what he sees as an emerging health crisis. He says millions of people no longer have access to medical care and treatment because of attacks against hospitals, ambulances, and medical personnel.

The World Health Organization says more than 70 health care facilities have been attacked. Some have been destroyed. At least 71 people have been killed and 37 injured.

Rocca says violence has discouraged many people from leaving the safety of their bunkers to seek health care.

“Many are also cut off from regular access to clean water, leaving them at an elevated risk of infectious diseases. People who are on the move are also at greater risk, as living conditions can be overly crowded and access to proper water and sanitation facilities lacking. Outbreaks of respiratory and water-borne diseases are highly likely.”

Federation President Rocca says Red Cross volunteers are working to rehabilitate and provide safe toilets and shower facilities. He says they are distributing water and hygiene supplies.

“Across the country, volunteers are providing first aid and psychosocial support, transporting people to hospital, helping to reunite families through the Red Cross hotline, and delivering humanitarian aid to bomb shelters, medical facilities, and temporary accommodations for those who are displaced.”

Rocca notes Red Cross volunteers themselves are affected by the conflict. Many, he says, have lost homes, communities, and loved ones. Despite their personal grief and the many dangers, he says they continue to do what they can to aid and comfort victims of this terrible war.

Since the beginning of the war on February 24, he says Red Cross volunteers have assisted more than 400,000 people across Ukraine.