As many as 3 million Ukrainians to be displaced this winter: World Health Organization
The World Health Organization’s Europe director said on Monday that 2 million to 3 million Ukrainians will likely be displaced in the coming months as the weather grows colder.
“This winter will be life-threatening for millions of people in Ukraine,” Hans Henri P. Kluge said in a statement. “We expect 2–3 million more people to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety.”
The doctor warned that displaced Ukrainians will “face unique health challenges” and be at higher risk of diseases like COVID-19, pneumonia, influenza, diphtheria and measles.
Kluge blamed the crisis on Russian attacks on energy sources for much of the danger to which Ukrainians will be exposed this winter amid temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius, or minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Half of the country’s energy infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed as a result of Russia’s invasion, according to Kluge, and 10 million people have no access to power.
“Continued attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and health-care facilities are no longer fully operational — lacking fuel, water and electricity to meet basic needs,” said the doctor, claiming that Ukraine’s health system is facing “its darkest days in the war so far.”
He specified a lack of incubators for maternity wards, refrigerators for blood banks and ventilators for intensive care beds.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged residents of the country on Monday to be “very frugal” with their electricity use as Russia targets energy sources.
“The systemic damage to our energy sphere by the attacks of Russian terrorists is so significant that all our people and businesses should be very frugal and spread consumption by hours of the day,” he warned.
Kluge also addressed the epidemic of mental health issues resulting from Russia’s nine-month-long war on Ukraine, saying that 10 million people are now at risk of disorders such as acute stress, anxiety, depression, substance use and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The devastating energy crisis, the deepening mental health emergency, constraints on humanitarian access and the risk of viral infections will make this winter a formidable test for the Ukrainian health system and the Ukrainian people, but also for the world and its commitment to support Ukraine,” said Kluge.
“This war must end, before the health system and the health of the Ukrainian nation are compromised any further.”