One in four Ukrainians at risk of mental disorder due to conflict - WHO

A national flag waves over a building of regional administration after Russia's retreat from Kherson, in central Kherson, Ukraine November 13, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

GENEVA, Dec 20 (Reuters) - A World Health Organization official said on Tuesday that 10 million people, or about a quarter of Ukraine's population, may suffer from a mental health disorder in relation to the conflict there.

"WHO estimates that up to 10 million people are at risk of some form of a mental disorder, varying from anxiety and stress to more severe conditions," Jarno Habicht, WHO's representative in Ukraine told a Geneva press briefing via video link.

More severe conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by distressing events. Cases are rising after 10 months of conflict, prompting a separate U.N. agency to launch online support services.

Ukraine's health care system has been under pressure since Russia invaded in February. So far, there have been at least 700 attacks on its health care system, WHO data shows, and Russia's increase in attacks on critical infrastructure since October has added to the challenges by causing blackouts.

Moscow denies targeting civilians in what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine.

Habicht said respiratory diseases would increase with the cold weather and insufficient heating as would car accidents caused by unlit streets due to blackouts.

"The health system is functioning. But as it is 10 months it's a huge stress test " he said. "We are constantly seeing new challenges."

Reporting by Emma Farge; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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