As Russia continues its large-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, air, and sea, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Sunday that the country’s oxygen levels could be depleted within the next day. As Russian forces close in on the capital of Kyiv, transportation across the country faces significant disruption. Trucks moving essential supplies, including medical oxygen, have not been able to reach hospitals throughout Ukraine, which devastatingly means that most of the hospitals could run out of their oxygen supplies shortly. “The oxygen supply situation is nearing a very dangerous point in Ukraine,” a statement from the WHO reads. The WHO reports that some hospitals have already depleted their oxygen reserves. These much-needed supplies are necessary to support patients facing various conditions including COVID-19, pregnancy complications, sepsis, and injuries sustained from the Russian attacks.
Ukraine is the second-largest European country by area, meaning its trucks are vital to sustaining its health system. As a result of the invasion, zeolite, a chemical used to produce safe medical oxygen, is not currently able to be transported to the country’s various medical oxygen generators. The only short-term solution is to facilitate the safe transit of medical oxygen from regional networks via a logistics corridor through Poland, which the WHO is currently working on. “It is imperative to ensure that lifesaving medical supplies—including oxygen—reach those who need them,” the WHO said.
Before the Russian invasion, the Eastern European nation had worked to increase its oxygen therapy capacity for severely ill patients in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in conjunction with the WHO. Just under 300 Ukrainian health facilities had improved their technical expertise, infrastructure, and medical supplies in “an ambitious health reform programme,” the WHO says. Because of the Russian invasion, this progress is sadly being undone.
On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a European democracy of about 44 million people. According to NBC, Russian forces are closing in on Kyiv while bombing dense urban areas. The attacks over the past week have led to a mass exodus of some 660,000 refugees, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. For the sake of all the millions of people who have not been able to flee, Ukraine’s health system desperately needs protection. “During the crisis in Ukraine, health must remain a priority pillar of the humanitarian response, with health systems and facilities remaining protected, functional, safe, and accessible to all who need essential medical services, and health workers [remaining] protected so they can continue to save lives,” the WHO says.