Medical oxygen supplies in Ukraine may last only 24 hours: WHO

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Ukraine is suffering from dangerously low medical oxygen supplies due to the ongoing invasion by Russian forces, and may run out of it within 24 hours, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).

Life-saving medicinal oxygen supplies are particularly crucial for patients with health complications stemming from pregnancy, childbirth, chronic conditions, sepsis, and injuries and trauma, including those with Covid-19.

About 1,700 people are hospitalised with Covid in the country, according to the WHO.

Due to the Russian invasion that began on February 24, the country has been hit with low oxygen supplies. The WHO stated that trucks are unable to transport oxygen supplies from plants to hospitals across the country, including the capital Kiev, which is facing Russian attack.

“The oxygen supply situation is nearing a very dangerous point in Ukraine,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge said in a joint statement.

“The majority of hospitals could exhaust their oxygen reserves within the next 24 hours. Some have already run out. This puts thousands of lives at risk,” they added.

Further, they noted that medical oxygen generator manufacturers in several areas are also facing shortages of zeolite — crucial, mainly imported chemical product necessary to produce safe medical oxygen.

Ghebreyesus and Kluge have called for critical medical supplies to safely reach those who need them. The UN agency is also working with partners to establish safe transit for oxygen-related medical devices and trauma treatment supplies through Poland.

In addition, patient services in critical hospitals are also being jeopardised by electricity and power shortages. The WHO added that ambulances transporting patients are in also danger of getting caught in the crossfire between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Oxygen “supplies would need safe transit, including via a logistics corridor through Poland. It is imperative to ensure that lifesaving medical supplies – including oxygen – reach those who need them,” Ghebreyesus and Kluge said.

They added that the progress that Ukraine made strengthening its health systems in recent years, with WHO support, “is now at risk of being derailed during the current crisis”.

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