WHO official calls for health, humanitarian principles in resolving Ukraine crisis

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A World Health Organization (WHO) official has urged that health and humanitarian principles should play as key drivers of peace in Ukraine.

“Through personal experience in other conflicts, I firmly believe that health and humanitarian principles remain key drivers of peace, and I am using all diplomatic resources that are at my disposal as elected WHO leader to reduce the impact of this human catastrophe,” Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

Kluge, during a virtual press briefing, noted that the WHO has prioritised ensuring “safe passage” of needed health supplies into Ukraine, making sure that neighbouring countries have “the infrastructure and expertise in place to meet the urgent needs of those arriving,” and there is “continuity of care” within Ukraine, specifically through a fully-functioning WHO operations center in west Ukraine.

Although Ukraine has “remarkably” maintained its Covid-19 surveillance and response system, the current conflict could disproportionately affect the elderly in the country, because only one-third of those over 60 have been fully vaccinated, Kluge said.

“We are working to support these essential medical needs though fixed facilities and field hospitals or mobile health services and by making key diagnostics, medicines and medical supplies available,” he said.

The official added that the specific health needs of women and girls must be prioritised amid the conflict.

Also on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Twitter that about 2 million people have entered neighboring countries from Ukraine since Russia launched a special military operation in the country.

Grandi estimated that around 4 million Ukrainians, or about 10 percent of the country’s population, may leave Ukraine because of the conflict.

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