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10 Mar, 2022 06:17

WHO warns Ukraine conflict creating ‘worst possible’ health conditions

The international health body said the fighting could amplify the spread of disease in Ukraine
WHO warns Ukraine conflict creating ‘worst possible’ health conditions

The UN’s health watchdog has warned of worsening health conditions in Ukraine amid ongoing fighting with Russian forces, saying the war could help to spread infectious diseases ranging from Covid to the measles.

“The reality is that the conditions we see in Ukraine are the worst possible ingredients for the amplification and spread of infectious disease,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said on Wednesday, adding: “It doesn't matter if it’s Covid, doesn’t matter if it’s polio, doesn’t matter if it’s measles, doesn’t matter if it’s cholera.”

During the same briefing, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “the only real solution to this situation is peace,” calling on Moscow “to commit to a peaceful resolution to this crisis and to allow safe, unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance for those in need.” He noted that the organization had verified some 18 health facilities damaged in the fighting. 

Kiev on Wednesday accused Russian forces of shelling a hospital in the city of Mariupol, saying children were killed in the strike. Moscow has disputed the charge, however, claiming local nationalist militants had taken up positions in the building after clearing it of civilians.  

Ukrainian officials earlier called on the WHO to stop “any cooperation and information exchange with the Russian Federation,” citing alleged strikes on hospitals during Moscow’s assault.

Russia launched what President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation” on February 24, saying the mission would aim to defend two breakaway republics under siege by the Kiev government since 2014, as well as “demilitarize” and “denazify” the country. Ukraine has called the attack “unprovoked,” insisting it had no plans to retake the separatist regions by force and denouncing Russia as the aggressor.