Almost 1/3 of Ukrainians struggling with mental health: WHO
By Antonio Broto
Geneva, Feb 17 (EFE).- Some 10 million Ukrainians, almost a third of the country’s population, are suffering from mental health issues, the World Health Organisation reported on Friday.
Of those 10 million Ukrainians, 4 million are struggling with moderate to severe symptoms, WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told a press conference in the western Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr.
“The mental health and wellbeing safety net, the community care and self-management of mental health conditions, required to address the overwhelming needs of each and every community in Ukraine today, lies as much in the hands of the community member themselves as it does with social and health authorities, whose capacities cannot possibly match the need,” he said.
Kluge, who was on his fifth visit to the country since Russia invaded almost a year ago, said that mental health, rehabilitation and community access to health services were among the WHO’s top priorities after the agency had spent several months working with Ukraine’s health ministry collating data to gain clarity on the challenges that must be “tackled urgently”.
The WHO regional director said that during his visit he once again witnessed that “despite the fatigue, stress and exhaustion of the health workforce, Ukraine’s health system remains so remarkably resilient.”
LESS ACCESS IN LIBERATED AREAS
WHO’s representative in Ukraine, Jarno Habicht, said that areas that had been liberated from Russian forces, such as towns around Kyiv and Kharkiv, were struggling.
Moscow’s relentless targeting of energy infrastructure, a strategy Russia has adopted since October, has also hampered the health sector’s efforts, with some health centers and hospitals dealing with outages for several weeks, Habicht said.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches its one-year anniversary, Kluge said another major concern was access to medical treatment for Ukrainian citizens due to economic and logistical difficulties.
“The latest WHO needs assessment survey finds that 1-in-10 say they struggle to access medicines for various reasons – including damaged or destroyed pharmacies and the unavailability of supplies,” Kluge reported. “Moreover, almost one-third of people surveyed say they can no longer afford the medicines they need.”
INFECTIOUS OUTBREAKS AND VACCINES
Another key challenge in Ukraine is dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases and rolling out vaccine programs.
Kluge warned that even before the war, levels of tuberculosis and HIV in Ukraine were worrying.
WHO has helped set up regional disease control and prevention centers to track the development of these diseases, he added.
Vaccination campaigns have been hampered by Russia’s invasion and only 11% of the Covid vaccines that have arrived in Ukraine have been administered, according to the WHO regional director.
To meet the growing health needs of the war-torn country WHO has increased its 2023 aid appeal to $240 million, with $160 million to be deployed within Ukraine and $80 million for countries hosting Ukrainian refugees. EFE