WHO Medical Supplies Reach Lviv in Western Ukraine, as UN Agencies Appeal for Protection for Unaccompanied Child Refugees
A Ukrainian refugee family with 11 children entered Romania at the Isaccea border crossing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has managed to get the 36 metric  tonnes of medical supplies it flew into Poland late last week into the western Ukrainian town of Lviv, some 80 km from the Polish border. 

However, major Russian targets such as Kyiv and Mariopul are over 540km and 1200 kms away respectively, prospects so far appeared dim that the Russians will open up a humanitarian corridor to enable medical supplies to reach the capital for those unable to leave.

Speaking with Health Policy Watch from Lviv, Ukraine, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jaresevic said that WHO was liaising with the Ukranian Ministry of Health on where and how the supplies could be distributed so that they would reach those most in need throughout the country.  

“WHO has set up a warehouse in Lviv… we are working with the Ministry of Health on where it is going to be sent and how,” he said.  He said that most of the supplies were intended for trauma injuries: “It’s mainly surgical kits with a few emergency kits, and some essential medical supplies.  We hope they will go to where they are most needed.”

From its base in Lviv, WHO will also be coordinating the “health cluster” of international aid response, to provide a single address to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, said Jaresevic.  He added that he expected another WHO aid shipment to arrive in the city shortly.

How the supplies will get from Lviv to other areas of the country that are desperately in need of aid, and in some cases also under shell fire and lacking electricity or water, is another question. 

Attacks on health facilities have skyrocketed, with WHO having verified a total of 16 attacks involving health facilities, in which nine people were killed and 16 were wounded.  That, as Russia steps up its attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, including city centres, residential and commercial areas.

“Additional reports are being investigated,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Twitter Sunday. “Attacks on healthcare facilities or workers breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law.”

WHO’s Kyiv staff moved to safer locations  

WHO maintains a large storehouse of supplies in Kyiv, but it remains unclear if access to that is available either, as Russia continues to tighten its noose around the city. In a press briefing, March 2, Mike Ryan, WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies said access to Kyiv’s stores was largely “blocked” by the constant bombardments.  

Some of WHO’s Ukrainian national staff also have had to be relocated to safer locations outside of Kyiv – although the WHO spokesperson said “they are continuing working to support the health system.” 

Throughout Monday continued Russian shelling of evacuation routes from major cities was continuing, making entry or exit all the more dangerous.  This after a Russian military strike hit an evacuation crossing point in a Kyiv suburb Sunday, killing a family with two children and other civilians, and another shell attack in Hostomel killed the village mayor.  

Further attempts to create humanitarian access corridors continued to founder after Russia said that it would only allow people to evacuate to Russia or Belarus. 

UNICEF and UNHCR appeal for protection for child refugees 

On Monday, UNICEF and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed to Ukraine’s neighbours to help document and protect Ukrainian child refugees, especially those without parents.

In the past week, around 1.2 million refugees have fled Ukraine, and about half are estimated to be children, including those who are either unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents and family members.

“Children without parental care are at a heightened risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. When these children are moved across borders, the risks are multiplied. The risk of trafficking also soars in emergencies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a statement on Monday.

“UNICEF and UNHCR urge all neighbouring and impacted countries to ensure the immediate identification and registration of unaccompanied and separated children fleeing from Ukraine, after allowing them access to their territory,” they added.

Russell and Grandi have appealed to neighbouring states to link the child refugees to their national child protection systems, including with “screened caregivers” such as temporary foster or other community-based care, and critical child protection services and family tracing and reunification mechanisms.

Around 100,000 Ukrainian children, half of them with disabilities, live in institutional care and boarding schools in Ukraine. 

“Those legally responsible for children in institutions in Ukraine must ensure that evacuations are done in line with national authorities’ instructions. Movements must be reported to competent authorities in Ukraine and neighbouring countries immediately upon crossing the border, and as far as possible, children should be evacuated with their identification papers and case files,” according to the statement.


Meanwhile, an estimated 80,000 Ukrainian women are due to give birth in the next three months and many have already had to do so in underground train stations and temporary bomb shelters.

Exhausted Ukrainians continue to flee across the borders to seek refuge in Poland, Moldova and other countries to escape from Russia’s bombing.

Polish nurse Dominika Janas works in a makeshift clinic at the Rzeszów train station, in Poland. She told the WHO that the facility was seeing 50 to 100 refugees a day, mostly children who are cold, hungry, dehydrated and exhausted. However, Janas said what worries her the most was their mental health.


Image Credits: UNICEF.

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