Initial Impacts Study

Conflict in Ukraine: Initial Impacts on Health

Published by BMJ Global Health, “The Human Toll and Humanitarian Crisis of the Russia-Ukraine War: the First 162 Days” is a first-of-its-kind study about the health impacts of the conflict.

Authors: Ubydul Haque, Amna Naeem, Shanshan Wang, Juan Espinoza, Irina Holovanova, Taras Gutor, Dimitry Bazyka, Rebeca Galindo, Sadikshya Sharma, Igor P. Kaidashev, Dmytro Chumachenko, Svyatoslav Linnikov, Esther Annan, Jailos Lubinda, Natalya Korol, Kostyantyn Bazyka, Liliia Zhyvotovska, Andriy Zimenkovsky, Uyen-Sa D. T. Nguyen

BMJ Global Health article access: (Volume 7, Issue 9)

During the earliest days of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which began with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, it became clear that a major humanitarian crisis was unfolding. Data scientist Ubydul Haque recognized the emerging need for reliable information and analysis pertaining to the human toll of the conflict, including impacts on public health, health care access and delivery, and societal welfare.

Haque, now an assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at Rutgers Global Health Institute and Rutgers School of Public Health, initiated a first-of-its-kind study that involved compiling and analyzing data about civilian deaths and injuries from attacks, casualties by weapon type, attacks on health care facilities, and the spread of communicable diseases. The data was collected during the first five months of the conflict. The research also involved collecting information about factors directly or indirectly impacting the health and well-being of people living in Ukraine, such as the destruction and disruption of residential areas, civilian infrastructure, communication systems, and utility services.

The research study, titled “The Human Toll and Humanitarian Crisis of the Russia-Ukraine War: the First 162 Days,” was published by BMJ Global Health in September 2022.

Examples of the study’s findings and related discussion include:

  • The deadliest attacks – resulting in nearly 90 percent of all deaths – involved shelling, the most common weapon type documented.
  • During the study period, there were 445 attacks on health care facilities, which included 32 major hospitals in Ukrainian cities. The research team suggests that the continuous attacks on health facilities and residences reflect intentional targeting, versus random.
  • People who have chronic diseases had limited access to medical care and medications. The bombardment of hospitals, factories, and dispensaries disrupted medication and drug distribution systems, and the total number of working pharmacies in Ukraine decreased by 19 percent between February 23 and June 4, 2022. Destroyed roads, constant shelling, and threats severely affected pharmaceutical companies’ access to raw materials.
  • During the study period, the polio vaccination campaign was stopped; 950,434 patients were diagnosed with COVID-19, resulting in 8,402 deaths; 6,837 people were diagnosed with tuberculosis; and 3,393 people were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
  • At least 250 attacks on civilian infrastructure unrelated to health care were documented, spanning 82 different cities, villages, and municipalities. Targets included bridges, museums, nuclear plants, food supply reserves, airports, playgrounds, and ammonia warehouses.

This published research study is considered the first to document civilian casualties by weapon type and damage to health care infrastructure alongside the greater toll of the destruction of civilian infrastructure and utilities. As the study’s authors write in their conclusion, “The devastation, trauma, and human cost of war will impact generations of Ukrainians to come,” and, therefore, this research can inform public health response and preparedness on multiple levels.

Meet the Researcher

Ubydul HaqueUbydul Haque is an assistant professor of global health at Rutgers Global Health Institute with a joint appointment as an assistant professor of epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health. He is a geospatial epidemiologist who designs data- and technology-driven solutions for confronting global public health problems.