Healthcare in hard times: Ukraine

Xavier Symons
Feb 14, 2015
Reproduced with Permission

More than politics is at stake in negotiations over a ceasefire between Ukraine and separatist rebels - healthcare in the affected regions is in a dire state.

According to an article in this month's Lancet, health services in east Ukraine are running out of essential medicines and facing serious shortages of doctors.

There has been an exodus of healthcare professionals from the war-torn regions over recent months and according to WHO estimates some facilities are experiencing shortages as high as 70%.

But this is not the only concern - medical supplies, including life-saving medicines, have been interrupted or cut off entirely in the eastern regions of the country. There are concerns about the fate of people with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as supplies of vital medicines dry up. And hundreds of people on opioid substitution therapy (OST) have already had their treatment cut off because supplies of buprenorphine have run out and there is no way to get more into the region.

Aleksey Kvitkovskiy, a doctor in Luhansk, told The Lancet : "The situation with antiretrovirus drugs for HIV-positive people is close to catastrophic. It is the same with drugs to treat tuberculosis and with methadone for patients receiving OST."

The WHO has asked for US $23 million to care for those in eastern Ukraine affected by the conflict.

But only an end to fighting and the restrictions imposed by both sides, which are hindering transport of medicines and supplies into the region, will allow some of the largest health problems to be dealt with.