More than 3,000 people have died in Ukraine due to lack of access to healthcare: WHO

A person is carried from a medical train carrying children with oncological diseases who fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Kielce, Poland, March 16, 2022. Photo: Pawel Malecki/ Agencja Wyborcza.pl via Reuters

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A person is carried from a medical train carrying children with oncological diseases who fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Kielce, Poland, March 16, 2022. Photo: Pawel Malecki/ Agencja Wyborcza.pl via Reuters

The European head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that at least 3,000 people had died in Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February because they had been unable to access treatment for chronic conditions.

So far, the UN health agency has documented some 200 attacks in Ukraine against health facilities, and few hospitals are currently functioning, Hans Kluge told a regional meeting of the 53 member states of the WHO as well as senior agency colleagues.

“Forty percent of households have at least one member requiring chronic treatment that they can no longer find, resulting in around 3,000 preventable premature deaths,” he said in a speech, mentioning diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer.

Matilda Bogner, head of the UN rights monitoring mission for Ukraine, said on Tuesday she had seen death rates rise due to lack of access to healthcare.

“The right to health has been seriously affected across the country,” she said. In a cramped basement of a school in Yahidne, 10 elderly people died because it was unsafe to leave the shelter, she said at a separate briefing.

WHO officials said last week they were gathering evidence for a possible war crimes investigation into attacks they allegedly documented by Russia. Read more Moscow has denied previous accusations by Ukraine and Western countries of possible war crimes and also denied targeting civilians during the war.

At the WHO meeting, held in Copenhagen and attended by many people virtually, members passed a resolution that could lead to the closure of the Russia regional office and the suspension of meetings in the country. Read more

Russian envoy Andrey Plutnitsky opposed the resolution and said he was “extremely disappointed”.

Some have criticized the WHO measures, saying they don’t go far enough. “Closing the Russian European hub seems sweet and sweet. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin doesn’t care,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, DC, who follows the WHO closely.

Diplomats told Reuters they had abandoned efforts to suspend Russia from the WHO board over legal details, although members may seek to freeze voting rights later this month of Russia.

Moscow has called its actions in Ukraine since February 24 a “special military operation” to disarm the country and rid it of what the Kremlin calls Western-fomented anti-Russian nationalism. Ukraine and the West say that Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.