By Jennifer Rigby and Manojna Maddipatla
(Reuters) -A first shipment of medical aid for Ukraine will arrive in Poland on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, as the UN agency warned of an escalating health crisis in the country following Russia’s invasion.
The delivery includes 6 tons of trauma care and emergency surgery supplies to help 150,000 people, but how to get them to Ukrainians in need remains unclear, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.
He said WHO had supplied emergency supplies to 23 hospitals in Ukraine prior to the conflict, but its supplies in Kyiv were currently inaccessible.
WHO said it also had reports of imminent shortages of cancer medications and insulin for patients with diabetes in the country, as well as oxygen tanks.
“There is an urgent need to establish a corridor to ensure humanitarian workers and supplies have safe and continuous access to reach people in need,” Tedros said, although he said that he had not yet spoken to the Russian or Ukrainian leadership about this. Ukraine country director Jarno Habicht said that negotiations were ongoing to ensure the supplies in Poland and elsewhere reached conflict zones.
The kits being sent to Ukraine include sutures and skin grafts, as well as equipment for amputations and other major trauma operations. WHO said it was also prioritizing COVID-19 therapeutics, including the new antiviral pills, to Ukraine over the last 72 hours to mitigate a potential surge.
WHO also condemned unconfirmed attacks on health workers in Ukraine, and stressed that medical needs remained acute. Three major oxygen plants in the country have also closed, threatening access for patients, the body said, with at least 2,000 people requiring medical oxygen even before the conflict.
WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said: “We call on all the parties and particularly the government of Russia to reconsider his position in the light of the suffering that’s being generated in Ukraine.”
(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby in London and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; editing by John Stonestreet and Lisa Shumaker)