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Ukraine has already been battered by the war precipitated by the Russian invasion. Doctors are now concerned about an increase in cases of not only COVID-19, but also other infectious diseases such as polio, cholera, and measles. According to Kate White, an emergency program manager for Doctors Without Borders, Ukraine already has low vaccination rates for these diseases.
“In terms of what we call vaccine-preventable diseases, the situation in Ukraine was that the population had not been vaccinated to the extent that you would get herd immunity like you would in many other European countries or the United States,” White explained.
She also stated that the additional strain on Ukraine’s healthcare system as a result of the war will result in a significant drop in routine immunization numbers.
Some threats, such as the spread of Covid-19, are immediate because people are huddled in basements, subway stations, and makeshift shelters to avoid bombardment. These areas lack adequate access to clean water and sanitation, which doctors warn could lead to an increase in diarrhoeal diseases.
“I am very concerned about Ukraine.” “First and foremost, this could lead to a long-term conflict that completely devastates the health system,” Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership in Geneva, told Nature.
According to White, Russian forces are concentrating their firepower in Mariupol, where conditions are “unbearable” and “just hell.” “In 2011, Ukraine was the last country in Europe to have a cholera outbreak, and that was in Mariupol,” she explained.
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Mariupol has been without running water, electricity, or heat since March 2, when Russian forces surrounded it. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the city, which has a population of half a million people, is located at the mouth of the Kalmius River, which has dangerously high levels of pollution (WWF).
The water treatment plants in this area are powered by electricity, which has been cut off.
Doctors Without Borders volunteers are collecting rainwater and snow to provide clean water to the city’s residents.
The shelling of hospitals has exacerbated the situation, as medical supplies are in short supply. Pharmacies are also either empty or forced to close, leaving people with chronic diseases without access to their medications.