The World Health Organization reports hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees are arriving in Poland in utter distress and afflicted with a staggering number of health and mental disorders.
Poland is host to about 61% of the more than 3.5 million refugees who have fled war-torn Ukraine into neighboring countries. The World Health Organization reports access to health care is severely restricted in Ukraine and an overwhelming number of refugees need immediate medical attention.
WHO representative in Poland, Paloma Cuchi, says refugees arrive exhausted and in despair after a long, difficult, and dangerous journey to the Polish border. Speaking on a video link from Warsaw, Cuchi describes children who have been traveling for several days without proper food or water as being tired and worried. She says the elderly arrive with other health problems.
“There is a tremendous number of senior refugees that have come without their—have been without their medication for days,” said Cuchi. “They come with decompensated diabetes, with blood pressure, with other health problems. And, of course, we have women, with pregnant women that have been without prenatal care.”
Cuchi adds people who are medically fragile must be urgently evacuated to a facility where they can continue the treatment that was interrupted during their flight. They include children and adults with cancer, those needing dialysis, and mental-health patients.
The WHO has verified 62 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine since Russia invaded that country on February 24. The 10 latest reported attacks on health care facilities just occurred on Tuesday, March 22. WHO says a total of 15 people have been killed and 37 injured. WHO strongly condemns the attacks on health care. It says they violate international law and endanger lives.
Cuchi says WHO is preparing for a massive number of people who may arrive in Poland all at once, in a very short time if the situation deteriorates quickly. She adds WHO also is preparing for long-term needs.
“So, this translates into increased demands on needs for essential health care services, for medication, for mothers, for children, for HIV, for tuberculosis, as well as for patients suffering from noncommunicable diseases, mental health, and so forth,” said Cuchi.
Cuchi says WHO’s focus is on saving lives and ensuring those affected by armed conflict have access to basic health services and treatments for COVID-19, polio, and other health threats.