March 5. 2024. 9:11

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WHO warns of lack of rehabilitative care in Ukraine


Ukraine is in urgent need of more rehabilitation care centres, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said at a conference on Tuesday (7 March) as conflict and civilian casualties reach into the thousands.

Prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion a year ago, Ukraine already had an increased need for physical rehabilitation centres.

According to 2019 WHO data, half of the Ukrainian population was in need of some form of rehabilitation, mostly linked to the country’s high burden of noncommunicable diseases; the figure for the European population was two in five.

“Since the Russian invasion, the need for rehabilitation has never been greater in Ukraine and neighbouring countries,” Satish Mishra, from the WHO’s European office, told a press conference on Tuesday.

“Rehabilitation should take place as soon as possible. It reduces complications and optimises the quality of life of the injured,” Mishra added.

But access to healthcare is made difficult by the war, which has led to fewer people in the country, a reduced means of public transport, as well as an increase in power cuts.

Some of the Ukrainians affected by head injuries, burns, fractures and amputations in need of specialised medical attention and physical rehabilitation have been forced to travel to neighbouring countries to receive care.

“Continuity of care” is lacking as rehabilitation needs continue to increase, Mishra warned.

The Russian military has targeted medical infrastructure in particular, as it has bombed several hospitals and maternity wards, including that of Mariupol, Kherson and, more recently, Druzhkivka, in the Donbas region.

Since the start of the war, 4,000 people in 25 health centres have received physical rehabilitation treatment, according to WHO data. This has been achieved through humanitarian corridors, additional training of medical staff and the provision of extra medical supplies.

“This work has become even more important because of the various traumas caused by the war. Rehabilitation services are needed all over the country,” said Jarno Habicht, WHO’s representative in Ukraine.

WHO verified over 100 attacks on healthcare in Ukraine

On late Thursday (7 April) WHO verified over 100 attacks on health care in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24. Attacks not only took the lives of over 70 people but are also having long-term effects on the healthcare system, WHO stressed.

Wheelchairs and hearing aids

In Ukraine, the WHO is working with various partners from the public sector, including the relevant ministries, and the private sector, to deliver health care.

Assistive technologies, such as hearing, vision and mobility aids, are essential health care, but the conflict has made their access and use complicated.

But the war is increasing the number of people who need it, Tatiana Baryshok, of the Ukrainian Association of Physiotherapists, told the WHO conference.

“Assistive technologies enable people to live an independent life. The risk without is social exclusion, poverty and dependence on family,” she warned.

Rehabilitating the wounded and giving access to the best assistive technologies is among the government’s priorities which were already viewed as such before the war broke out, the deputy head of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s cabinet, Iulliia Sokolovska, has said.

Among Ukrainian civilians, 7,000 were reportedly killed and 11,000 wounded, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which said that this figure is “probably lower than the reality”.

By contrast, losses are much more difficult to estimate on the military side.

Rehabilitative care will not only have to be physical as it is estimated that 10 million people will need psychosocial support following the trauma caused by the conflict, according to Handicap International.

EU4Health grants made available for Ukraine

EU4Health programme funds were made available for the Ukrainian health system on Friday (15 July), making another “historic step” in EU’s Ukraine’s partnership, EU’s health chief said.