Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine

Emergency services are seen on site of the destroyed Mariupol children's hospital as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 9, 2022 in this still image from a handout video obtained by Reuters. Ukraine Military/Handout via REUTERS

GENEVA (Reuters) – Global health aid agency Unitaid is donating 220 specialised portable breathing devices to Ukraine that can help save lives of premature babies even in frontline hospitals where there is no electrical power.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has seen hundreds of hospitals damaged or destroyed, disrupting supply lines and placing newborn babies at risk of death or disability from a lack of access to equipment and oxygen.

Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson for Unitaid, told a media briefing that the war was causing extra stress on pregnant women, leading to an increase in the number of premature births, which had tripled in some areas.

The new bubble nasal continuous positive airway pressure (bCPAP) devices are now available in 25 facilities across Ukraine, Verhoosel said.

Unitaid funds medical innovation programmes mainly in poor countries, and is hosted by the World Health Organization.

WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said that on a recent visit to a paediatric hospital close to the frontline in Ukraine she had seen medical staff who sleep in the basement every night, and constantly have to move children on ventilation machines.

“So having very portable devices that can function offline is absolutely critical,” she told the briefing.

Unitaid partnered with Vayu Global Health, a non-profit that specialises in low-cost healthcare equipment for developing countries, to provide the Kenya-made bCPAP machines, which cost around $500 each, as well as 125 oxygen blender systems.

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