WHO rushes supplies to Ukraine and prepares to combat disease in areas affected by flooding

Geneva: In order to respond to a variety of health risks, including trauma, drowning, and waterborne diseases like cholera, the World Health Organisation has rushed emergency supplies to flood-affected areas of Ukraine, officials said on Thursday.

Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes early on Tuesday after the Soviet-era Kakhovka hydroelectric dam burst, and Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations of responsibility.

"The impact of the region's water supply sanitation systems and public health services cannot be underestimated," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference.

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The WHO has rushed in to assist the government and medical professionals in preventive measures against waterborne diseases and to enhance disease surveillance.

When Teresa Zakaria, a WHO technical officer, was asked specifically about cholera, she responded that there was a chance of an outbreak because the pathogen is present in the environment. She said that in order to ensure that vaccines can be imported if necessary, the WHO was collaborating with Ukraine's health ministry to put systems in place.

"We are actually trying to address quite a wide range of health risks actually associated with the floods, starting from trauma to drowning, to waterborne diseases, but also all the way to the potential implications of disruption to chronic treatment," she continued.

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Russian and Ukrainian forces are divided by the massive Kakhovka Dam on the Dnipro River, and residents on both sides of its banks have been impacted. Although the WHO has offered assistance to regions under Russian control, its operational presence, according to Mike Ryan, has been "primarily" on the Ukrainian side.

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He claimed that Russian authorities had assured them that residents of the territories they control were "well monitored, well cared for, well fed (and) well supported."
He added that it would be up to the Ukrainian and Russian authorities to decide how to accomplish that. "We will be delighted to be able to access those areas and be able to monitor health as we would in most situations wish to do," he said.


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