Global health officials have warned that there will be a rise of Covid-19 in Ukraine tied to Russia's invasion, but doctors also worry about a surge in other infectious diseases too: polio, cholera and measles. Doctors without borders also claimed that Ukraine is facing an insulin shortage.
Before the war, Ukraine had low vaccination rates against those diseases, Kate White, an emergency program manager for Doctors Without Borders, told CNN on Tuesday.
"In terms of what we call vaccine-preventable diseases, the status in Ukraine was that the population was not vaccinated to the extent which you would get herd immunity like you would in many other European countries or in the US," White told CNN.
"Given that that was your baseline, and then now we have a situation where that system or routine immunization is no longer functioning because the health system has been disrupted — and then on top of that, you have the overall public health situation, so many cities where lack of access to health care is compromised, some places where they no longer have the water supply that they used to, they don't have electricity, there's issues with sanitation — so, all of these risk factors pile up on top of each other, which means that there is an increased risk," White said, referring to diseases like polio, cholera and measles.
"There was a polio outbreak in Ukraine last year," White said. "Ukraine was the last country within Europe to have a cholera outbreak in 2011, and that was in Mariupol. And as you are probably aware, Mariupol right now has significant issues around water and sanitation and an inability to do your basic kind of daily activities around hygiene."
The city of Mariupol remains a major site of Russian attacks and damage.
"There's also a risk of measles," White said. "The baseline vaccination status was not particularly high."
White added that she has heard of some physicians and volunteers testing positive for Covid-19 while in Ukraine, but "testing capacity is minimal right now."
Last week, officials at the World Health Organization said that as the pandemic continues, Russia's invasion will impact the spread of coronavirus.
"Certainly, there’ll be a rise in Covid-19 within the population within Ukraine, without a doubt, because not testing, without access to treatment, with vaccinations stopped, and there's already low vaccination — I think about 34% or 35% vaccination rate before the conflict," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said in a news briefing last week. "So, there are many people who still remain vulnerable to infection."
Additionally, the organization claimed that Ukraine is facing an insulin shortage.
In a statement, the World Health Organization lists insulin as one of the many medications it is supplying to Ukraine.
According to the International Diabetes Foundation, there are over 2.3 million people with diabetes in Ukraine, making up 7.1% of the population.