24 March 2022

A shortage of bone marrow has triggered the evacuation of many children with cancer from Ukraine, it has been revealed.

A new transplant centre had only just opened at the Western Ukrainian Specialised Children’s Centre in Lviv – but donor bone marrow can no longer reach it, the World Health Organization revealed.

The Lviv hospital is increasingly operating as a triage centre, making decisions about which patients have to be evacuated from the country.

WHO is now setting up a support hub in Poland and says that local and international organisations are working “against the clock” to ensure that paediatric cancer patients can resume treatment.

The UK last week received 21 paediatric cancer patients, sending them to children’s hospitals in Southampton, London and Birmingham. It has also guaranteed free NHS care for Ukrainian refugees.

Dr Roman Kizym, head of the Lviv centre, spoke of the decision to evacuate patients, describing them as “indirect victims of the war.”

He said: “This is a difficult moment. Some treatments, such as bone marrow transplants, which I worked so hard to make available in Ukraine, are now impossible. It is impossible to bring in donor bone marrow.”

One of the physicians, Dr Severyn Ferneza, said: “We are preparing for the worst: securing the windows, preparing space to evacuate in the basement. But it’s not adequate for our patients.

“I don’t even want to think of what would happen if this hospital ceases to be able to function. No one else could manage.”

One patient, Anastasia, from Kyiv, has now resumed treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in Hamburg, Germany, after the hospital where she was receiving treatment was exposed to artillery fire.

Her mother Natalia said: “It was impossible to continue treatment with the alarms, the sirens and the likelihood of the destruction of the capital. I am very grateful to everyone who arranged the evacuation of children, and those doctors who took us for treatment in Germany.”

Source: WHO

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