Statement – Winter in Ukraine: people’s health cannot be held hostage – World Health Organization

This winter will be life-threatening for millions of people in Ukraine. 

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. 

The country is facing a therma-crisis on top of a perma-crisis brought on by the war and the pandemic. 

Half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is either damaged or destroyed. This is already having knock-on effects on the health system and on people’s health.

Put simply, this winter will be about survival.

WHO has so far verified 703 attacks on health since the war began 9 months ago. This is a breach of international humanitarian law and the rules of war. 

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.   

Maternity wards need incubators; blood banks need refrigerators; intensive care beds need ventilators; and all require energy. 

To focus the world’s attention on this situation is why I am here on my 4th visit this year and just days after the largest wave of missile strikes across the country – to meet officials, health workers and patients and offer WHO’s unwavering support to the Ministry of Health, to the government and to the Ukrainian people. 

And to express my gratitude and respect for Ukraine’s doctors, nurses and other health workers, who continue to show their heroism.      

What we know is that hundreds of thousands of premises across the country – including private homes, schools and hospitals – have no gas supplies, essential not only for cooking but also for heating. 

Today, 10 million people – a quarter of the population – are without power.    

Temperatures are predicted to plummet as low as -20 ˚C in parts of the country.

As desperate families try to stay warm, many will be forced to turn to alternative heating methods, like burning charcoal or wood, or using generators fuelled by diesel, or electric heaters. These bring health risks, including exposure to toxic substances that are harmful for children, older people and those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, as well as accidental burns and injuries. 

We expect 2–3 million more people to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety. They will face unique health …….


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