Medical oxygen running out in Ukraine as war rages, WHO warns

"The majority of hospitals could exhaust their oxygen reserves within the next 24 hours. Some have already run out. This puts thousands of lives at risk", says WHO Director-General.

 People stand in line to buy drinking water in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 26, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)
People stand in line to buy drinking water in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 26, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

Ukraine is running out of oxygen supplies that critically ill people need, the World Health Organization said on Sunday, calling for safe passage for emergency imports as combat rages.

"The oxygen supply situation is nearing a very dangerous point in Ukraine. Trucks are unable to transport oxygen supplies from plants to hospitals across the country, including the capital Kyiv," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a statement.

"The majority of hospitals could exhaust their oxygen reserves within the next 24 hours. Some have already run out. This puts thousands of lives at risk."

Oxygen is essential for patients with a range of conditions, including the 1,700 in hospital with COVID-19 and those with other critical illnesses stemming from complications of pregnancy, childbirth, sepsis, injuries and trauma.

Critical hospital services were also being jeopardized by electricity and power shortages, while ambulances transporting patients were in danger of getting caught in the crossfire.

 Firefighters work at the site of a damaged residential building, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2022 in this frame grab of a still image use in a video. (credit: Ukrainian Ministry of Emergencies/via Reuters TV/Handout via REUTERS) Firefighters work at the site of a damaged residential building, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2022 in this frame grab of a still image use in a video. (credit: Ukrainian Ministry of Emergencies/via Reuters TV/Handout via REUTERS)

The WHO said it was looking to increase supplies, most likely using liquid oxygen and cylinders from regional networks. These supplies would need safe transit routes after leaving a logistics corridor through Poland.