Healthy Lifestyle

Responding to Health Needs in a War-Torn Nation: Insights from the WHO

The question of delivering adequate healthcare services during a time of war is a daunting task. The answer to this challenge is health data. To effectively address critical health needs, it is essential to assess individuals and communities’ needs with accurate data and evidence. The WHO has been working closely with the Ministry of Health and almost 200 partners, including civil society organizations, to provide strategic support in Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict.

The Ukrainian government declared martial law following the Russian Federation’s invasion in February 2022, making it even more difficult to access primary and secondary data collection needed to identify health needs and plan interventions. Despite these challenges, the WHO adopted a “no regrets” approach to health service delivery by designing its response with limited or incomplete information.

o address the data gap, innovative methods were used, such as partnering with a market research firm specializing in crowdsourcing to conduct three health situation reviews between April and October 2022. These reviews provided a comprehensive understanding of the unfolding scenario and helped identify emerging healthcare needs, medicine shortages, and which parts of the country to focus on. This information was critical in designing and implementing mobile primary health clinics in areas recently regained by the Government of Ukraine and ensuring the delivery of vital medicines and supplies to treat noncommunicable diseases in hard-to-reach areas.

In addition, two in-depth rounds of health needs assessments were conducted over the year of war, revealing that one-in-three people struggled to afford the medicines they needed, especially for chronic conditions. Despite some improvements in overall access to care and medicine, barriers remained, such as the increasing cost of services and supplies. Mental health needs were also a significant challenge, with an estimated 22% of the population living in Ukraine’s conflict-affected areas likely to have some form of mental health challenge. The government launched an urgent and ambitious nationwide mental health program, with the WHO providing technical support to train mental health professionals and help scale up efforts significantly.

As First Lady Olena Zelenska championed the mental health program, she emphasized the importance of addressing this critical need in conflict settings. “We must do everything possible to support people’s mental health, especially in conflict-affected areas, where people face unimaginable stress and trauma,” she said.

Overall, despite the ongoing conflict and challenging circumstances, the WHO and its partners are committed to providing vital healthcare services to those in need in Ukraine. As WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Health is a fundamental human right, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that people in conflict settings have access to the healthcare services they need.”

Back to top button