WHO expresses concern about devastating effects of conflict on health care

Astana, Oct 24 (EFE).- The devastating effects of violence and conflict on health care in Europe was the focus of the World Health Organization’s European regional conference in Astana on Tuesday.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, himself a victim of war, raised concern about the situations in Ukraine, Armenia, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory during his opening remarks at the 73rd Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe.

“As we all know, war only brings devastation, tragedy, loss and suffering,” the head of WHO said. “I witnessed it as a child. I do not remember anything except destruction.”

The conference, being held in the Kazakh capital until Thursday, is an opportunity for European countries to discuss health care issues and solutions.

For Ukraine’s First Deputy Health Minister Sergii Dubrov, his country’s medical service has had to deal with serious problems caused by the Russian invasion, leaving many people without health care.

“The problem we face with medical services in once occupied territory is that the Russian army has destroyed 190 medical facilities,” Dubrov told EFE in an interview.

Other issues include providing care to seven million displaced people, lack of staff, and even treating wounded Russian troops.

In certain regions such as Kherson, Kirovohrad and Donetsk, there is a shortage of trained professionals.

“We ask doctors from Kyiv, from the central part of Ukraine to work at hospitals where there are deficits of medical staff for two weeks or one month,” the deputy minister said. “There are more than 600 foreign medical staff, doctors and nurses working with us.”

Before becoming the deputy minister, Dubrov worked at a hospital outside the Ukrainian capital at the start of the invasion.

“When Russian soldiers were near Kyiv, at my hospital we received more than 20 Russian soldiers, and all my staff at my hospital treated all the patients,” Dubrov said.

Armenia’s health service has also suffered from the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, from where some 100,000 people have been displaced.

“For 10 months they have been without any medicine, with a shortage of food, a high level of malnutrition and very complicated health statuses,” Armenia’s First Deputy Health Minister Lena Nanushyan told EFE.

The government offers short-, medium- and long-term health care, beginning with first aid at the border as the displaced people arrive.

“We then provide health care services at the shelters built by the Armenian government,” Nanushyan said. “And of course we will integrate them into the health care system of our country.”

Nanushyan also discussed mental health problems for those arriving from Nagorno-Karabakh.

“This is not only for the adult population but also for children. We have malnutrition and miscarriages among pregnant women,” she said.

The 73rd Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe marks the 45th anniversary of Alma-Ata and the 5th anniversary of Astana declarations on primary health care, and is to reflect on the state of health and well-being of Europeans.


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