The EuroHealthNet Partnership of agencies improving public health and wellbeing expresses its collective solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We are deeply aggrieved by the invasion, incited whilst the world is still amid a pandemic and facing the existential threat of climate change. This war has reminded us that peace and security, which many of us have come to take for granted, are among the most fundamental determinants of health and wellbeing. The people of Ukraine are struggling just to save their lives in the face of fighting, whilst their communities are being destroyed and many are denied access to the basics for survival, like food, water, and essential medical and public health services.
We also stand alongside all actors in the international community that are providing aid, imposing sanctions, and upholding the rule of law following the invasion. We call for solidarity in health, such as through more coordinated, integrated, and cross-sectoral European action to ensure health and wellbeing.
“We need shared financing for humanitarian help, comparable to the EU National Recovery Plans, but for the Ukrainian crisis. We can mobilise a lot of human and material resources, but we are all facing inflation and economic hardship because of the pandemic. These problems will be intensified by this crisis. We must therefore share the costs of accommodating refugees in Poland, in other neighbouring countries and across Europe, and of providing them with health services, education, and other essential services. Few, if any, countries can do this on their own”.
- Prof. Assoc, Grzegorz Juszczyk, Director National Institute of Public Health, National Research Institute, Poland
The conflict is affecting people’s health and wellbeing not only in Ukraine, but also in the countries neighbouring Ukraine, across Europe, and globally. We are concerned about the overall impacts on:
- population mental health, as the conflict threatens global security and stability, leading to heightened levels of anxiety and an increase in stress-induced addictions (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, food).
- mental health of frontline emergency care workers, being overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis.
- the capacity of health and care systems and aid agencies to deal with the large influx of migrants and refugees and their health needs, in the face of continued efforts to contain and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- food insecurity and quality of nutrition, foremost in Ukraine but also in communities most vulnerable to a rise in the price of food.
- economic recession and an increase in prices, particularly energy prices, that will lead to energy poverty and a rise of people living in unhealthy housing with insufficient heating or access to electricity.
- instigation of adverse childhood experiences that affect health and wellbeing across the life-course, and sexual and gender-based violence.
All of these challenges will have the greatest impact on the health and wellbeing of those who are already less well-off, exacerbating health inequalities.
EuroHealthNet will continue to strive for more cross-sectoral and integrated approaches to address these health-related challenges. We must apply our collective knowledge and continue to improve our skills on how to work in multi-disciplinary teams across sectors and maximise the impact of the resources available to ensure better outcomes for all. We call on the EU Institutions and Member States to play an important role in coordinating humanitarian efforts between and within national borders, to help ensure such an approach.
“We urge Member States to agree at EU level to provide funds and guidance to ensure more integrated strategies and interventions to provide humanitarian support to refugees. In Slovakia, we face problems in coordination and financing the activities between government and local level, and civil society initiatives. We need better coordination, to avoid duplication of activities.”
- Daniela Kállayová, Department of Public Health, Screening and Prevention, Ministry of Health, Slovak Republic
Public health institutes across the EU, particularly from Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, are already joining forces to ensure the safety and security of refugees. Many build on the experience of the Balkan crisis of the 1990s, when public health actors worked together to help refugees deal with the trauma of war and displacement. The South-Eastern Europe Health Network (SEEHN) will have an ad hoc meeting on 17 March 2022, among others, to discuss the support they can offer in the face of the crisis. EuroHealthNet will participate, exchange good practices and consider how we can add value.
“We must work together in the spirit of peace, which is fundamental to health. This new crisis has made us acutely aware of our most essential priorities and values and most important determinants of health, peace being the most privileged among all. This awareness and sense of common purpose can guide us through these challenging times, and towards a better, healthier future.”
- EuroHealthNet’s President and Senior Advisor to the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) in Slovenia Dr. Mojca Gabrijelčič
EuroHealthNet is honoured to share an illustration by Marko Pogačnik, UNESCO Artist for Peace. The illustration expresses care for humankind, with a single line forming two hands encircling and finding peace in the human figure.