Ukraine after eight months of war: a resilient health system, according to WHO |

Of those who sought treatment, 95% reported receiving primary care services. According to the results of this survey by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 90% had access to health services for chronic diseases. Overall, one in three adult Ukrainians surveyed sought primary care.

However, one in two respondents reported at least one barrier to accessing all levels of care, the most common of which is cost. One in five Ukrainians could not get the medicines they needed: cost, availability and long queues at local pharmacies are the three main reasons.

The cost of care is the main factor

“Across Ukraine, people report that the main barriers to accessing healthcare are cost, time constraints on getting to and from healthcare facilities, and limited transportation availability,” noted Dr. Jarno Habicht, WHO representative in Ukraine.

These are some of the main findings of a recent health needs assessment conducted by the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, shared with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and international health partners on the ground. The poll, conducted in September 2022, is the first assessment of its kind since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

In the field, the treatment of chronic diseases dominates. One in three respondents, either themselves or a member of their family, suffers from a chronic illness and more than half of this group (52%) have sought treatment for chronic illnesses.

Access to medicines

The most common are cardiovascular disease (61%), diabetes (25%) and kidney disease (21%). This is a trend WHO continues to see across the country. Furthermore, women surveyed tend to be more in need of services and more likely to get the necessary care than men.

Regarding access to medicines, the survey reveals that, overall, one in five people (22%) could not get the medicines they needed. In areas of temporary occupation and active conflict, this figure rises to one in three people.

The types of drugs most frequently cited by respondents as hard to obtain include those for high blood pressure (49%) and heart problems (49%). Over 33% and 32% of respondents say they have difficulty obtaining sedatives and antibiotics, respectively.

The main reasons given concern the increase in the price of drugs (84%) or the unavailability of drugs in pharmacies (46%).

The challenges of the coming winter and the latest escalation of the fighting

“The cost of care is the main factor. People living in inadvertently occupied territories and in areas of active combat remain the most vulnerable, with one in three people reporting reduced access to services and medicines, compared to one in five people nationwide,” added Dr. habit.

Furthermore, the challenges of the upcoming winter and the latest escalation of fighting could place a heavy burden on the health system, with thousands of civilians living “in damaged houses, without fuel or electricity”. It is potentially a whole series of “dangerous climatic conditions” that make populations vulnerable and range from frostbite to pneumonia.

This scenario is further exacerbated by analyzes by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), according to which war could push around 60% of the population, or even many more, below the poverty line. The WHO survey clearly highlights the growing economic hardships that could further jeopardize the well-being of millions of people.

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