The two crises of COVID-19 and the Russian invasion have collided in Ukraine with life-saving oxygen supplies approaching dangerously low levels, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
The WHO has said that the oxygen supply situation is “nearing a very dangerous point” in Ukraine. Some hospitals have already run out of oxygen and many more could exhaust their reserves today.
It’s estimated that currently 1,700 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ukraine, so this shortage is putting thousands of lives at risk.
One of the main problems is cargo trucks being unable to transport vital oxygen supplies from plants to hospitals across the country, including the capital Kyiv. Medical manufacturers in several areas are also facing shortages of zeolite, a chemical product that's primarily important and necessary to produce safe medical oxygen.
On top of oxygen shortages, the WHO says many hospitals are being threatened by electricity and power shortages due to the ongoing conflict. Ambulances transporting patients are also in danger of getting caught in the crossfire.
The WHO is working to secure medical supplies by identifying the shortages and importing liquid oxygen and cylinders from other regional networks. Many of these supplies are likely to come through a travel corridor over the border from Poland.
As soon as the conflict broke out last week, the WHO said they have released millions of dollars in medical aid to ease the wider health crisis.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) is deeply concerned for the health of the people of Ukraine in the escalating crisis,” Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said last week.
“The health system must continue to function to deliver essential care to people for all health issues, from COVID-19 to cancer, diabetes and tuberculosis, to mental health issues, especially for vulnerable groups such as older persons and migrants,” he added.
“Today I released a further US$3.5 million from WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE) to purchase and deliver urgent medical supplies. This humanitarian health support is expected to rise following further needs assessments.”