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 Lviv. 27 February 2022. Hundreds of people trying to escape the on-going conflict in Ukraine wait for a train to Poland at the central train station in Lviv.

Emergency Ukraine: "The humanitarian disaster continues"

Lviv. 27 February 2022. Hundreds of people trying to escape the on-going conflict in Ukraine wait for a train to Poland at the central train station in Lviv. © Emin Ozmen/ Magnum Photos
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Fifteen days after the start of hostilities, all-out war is raging in many areas, making travel difficult, dangerous or simply impossible. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) quickly expanded its humanitarian medical response in several areas of the country. More than 2.1 million people have been forced to leave Ukraine, while many more are internally displaced.

    We have been in contact with hospitals that are receiving patients wounded as a result of the fighting. The conflict is putting a huge amount of pressure on health facilities that have limited staff and supplies; many hospitals are facing shortages. It is difficult to find medical and other crucial supplies in the country, as these are in high demand to meet the needs of so many patients.

    In eastern Ukraine, some hospitals have reported that they have treated dozens of wounded people at times. Hospitals also report shortages of medications to treat people with chronic diseases, such as insulin for patients with diabetes.

    The city of Mariupol is currently surrounded and subject to heavy shelling. Shops are no longer open; there is no heating or electricity. Pharmacies have run out of medicine. Most worryingly, there is no access to clean water. Over three days (5, 6 and 7 March) a ceasefire was agreed to each day to allow civilians to move out of the city safely; each time the ceasefire failed. The situation in the city is growing increasingly desperate.

    On 9 March, a hospital complex including a maternity ward in Mariupol was hit in an attack that was widely reported in the media. With active shelling, shootings and aerial bombardments continuing in Mariupol, it is becoming increasingly difficult to seek medical treatment.

    "Attacks on health structures destroy what little capacity is left to treat urgent cases. In a city, where the health system is close to collapse, depriving people of much-needed health care is a violation of the laws of war", said Kate White, MSF Emergency Manager.

    Our staff are still stranded in Mariupol and we know that the situation in the besieged area remains alarming and is getting worse every day. In an audio testimony, they highlight the enormous difficulties people are facing in getting health care and accessing medicines. "There is no drinking water at all and nowhere to get it (...). The explosions continue and the situation is very, very bad for the elderly, children and people with disabilities. The humanitarian disaster continues."

    "The humanitarian disaster continues in Mariupol" 8 March 2022.

    In southern Ukraine, the health system has already been disrupted by the war. Significantly, supplies are running low at many hospitals. Carla Melki, MSF emergency coordinator, looks back at the current situation in the port city of Odessa and anticipates future needs: "We visited the hospitals to which the injured civilians are to be converged. They are large hospitals, of good standard, well equipped. But they are not structures used to dealing with massive influxes of polytraumatised wounded or those hit by shrapnel (...)".



    The lack of medicines and equipment is already a huge problem throughout the country, and the situation can only get worse (...). Everyone is preparing for the worst". Carla Melki, MSF emergency coordinator

    MSF emergency teams have been deployed in all of Ukraine's neighbouring countries. This is the testimony of Christina Psarra, MSF coordinator in Poland, who explains the arrival of mobile medical units in different regions of the war-torn country.

    We have rapidly expanded our medical humanitarian response to several regions of the country. We have sent shipments of emergency medical and trauma supplies to hospitals in Kiev, Mariupol, Kramatorsk and Pokrovsk. Emergency medical personnel and a number of medical specialists have already entered Ukraine. And in the coming days, more reinforcements will continue to arrive to support our teams already on the ground.

    In addition, we have mobilised emergency teams in most of Ukraine's neighbouring countries with a twofold objective: firstly, to pre-position medical equipment so that we can enter the country and deal not only with the war-wounded, but also with all the medical emergencies we can within our means (people with chronic illnesses whose treatment may be interrupted, or people with tuberculosis and HIV, etc.), and secondly, to assess the unmet needs of the refugees at these border posts. The people we see arrive exhausted, facing the journey even on foot and enduring freezing temperatures.