As Russia continues attacks in Ukraine, global health leaders are warning that “there will certainly be a spike in Covid-19”.
Some activists in the area have already witnessed the disease spreading.
“Some of our volunteers have contracted COVID while helping to manage refugees at borders or refugee centers. And because the vaccination rate in both Moldova and Ukraine is very low, the epidemic is still going on,” said Constanta Duhotaro, an activist involved in the refugee crisis in Moldova and working closely With the Moldovan government, he told CNN.
The vaccination rate against Covid-19 in Moldova is about 29% and in Ukraine about 34%, according to Our World In Data.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO officials also said that as the pandemic continues, the Russian invasion will affect the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
“Unfortunately, this virus will take opportunities to continue spreading. We, as an organization, recognize that countries are in very different situations, facing different challenges. There are a lot of movements and refugees associated with this crisis,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on Covid. -19, on Wednesday.
Van Kerkhove added that the WHO will work with refugee-receiving countries to ensure continued Covid-19 testing and vaccinations. It is estimated that more than two million people fled war-torn Ukraine, most of them to Poland.
In a tweet on Thursday, the World Health Organization described the situation as “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe in more than 75 years” and noted that it was “working closely with health authorities to meet the needs of refugees” and support the health system in Ukraine.
“For sure, there will be a rise in Covid-19 among the population inside Ukraine, no doubt, because – testing is not done, without access to treatment, with vaccinations stopped and there are already low vaccinations. I think about 34% or 35% vaccination rate before the conflict, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said in a briefing Wednesday.
“Therefore, there are still many people who remain susceptible,” Ryan said, but added that the world must be careful not to perpetuate harmful prejudices and stereotypes about refugees and Covid-19.
“Let’s be very careful with our speech because that always comes up, and people fleeing the horrors of war will somehow bring things with them,” Ryan said in part. “Europe has as much Covid as it is, and it has to deal with that – and Ukrainian refugees are not going to change the demand for that.”