The UK Working Group on NCDs joins the world in its shock at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and we echo Dr Tedros’s deep concern about the unfolding humanitarian disaster.
Non-communicable diseases are a hidden health crisis in this specific humanitarian setting and in the many other conflicts and crises around the world. Statistics from the WHO’s Ukraine Health Cluster (see image below) show that, over the next three months, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and mental health conditions will be among the most urgent health risks in Ukraine, alongside injuries/trauma and Covid-19.
In this moment of great crisis and a vast movement of people, the new WHO report Continuum of Care for Noncommunicable Disease Management during the Migration Cycle could not be more timely. As WHO Deputy Director-General Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab noted at the launch of the report, the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ includes refugees and migrants: ‘Refugees and migrants have specific health needs and vulnerabilities, which in practice, may all too often fail to be recognised and addressed’. The new WHO recommendations on strengthening design/implementation of NCD policies in humanitarian emergencies – to be approved at the World Health Assembly in May – can also provide important direction to the emergency response (Annex 4 here).
In all the confusion and fear, NCDs remain a pressing priority. The UK Working Group on NCDs calls for non-communicable diseases – including access to essential medicines, to free and appropriate care, and to self-management tools – to be recognised as central in assisting vulnerable populations in humanitarian settings both within and beyond Ukraine.