‘Babies are going to die’: Ukraine’s most vulnerable suffer the Russian invasion

Credit: AP

They’re some of the most vulnerable in society - new-born babies, particularly those born prematurely.

Around 1,000 babies are born each day in Ukraine and about 100 of them will require some form of neonatal intensive care.

They need around the clock care to keep them alive.

ITV News has been sent footage of one perinatal care unit in Kyiv. Doctors are working from a makeshift neonatal intensive care unit in a basement.

Scenes sent to ITV News from a makeshift maternity ward in Ukraine

We spoke to Dr Olena Kostiuk, a neonatologist associate professor in Kyiv. She described how, within a few days, the basement unit was set up.

“It’s usually a technical room for water, for electricity and heating... never, never, ever is this space used in this way,” she says.

“Very sick babies, babies which we cannot move... they permanently live in the basement,” she says.

'Babies... they cannot live in these conditions'

"Babies are going to die. I can't even imagine what I think because I cannot think about it. Because babies, they cannot live in these conditions,” she said

"I'm incredibly sad... for myself the biggest problem is I don't know when it's going to finish and how long our pregnant women, our babies delivered in a basement, our babies have no normal support."

'Our babies have no normal support'

Dr Kostiuk says she’s worried that supplies are hard to get hold of and specialist equipment will soon run out.

She listed drugs and treatments that are already in short supply and is worried that supplies that come in from countries, such as Poland, might not get through.

There are different specialist drugs and treatments that are in short supply: such as nutrition for the babies that’s fed in through their blood vessels; antibiotics; caffeine treatment to stimulate babies to breath; and something called surfactant to help premature lungs.

Dr Kostiuk said health professionals are currently living in the hospitals and she’s worried about the impact of that on them.

'Our medical staff are scared too... they are human'

"The main problem is depression. They are scared. People are scared. Scared patients, ​pregnant women, scared mothers. Our medical staff are scared too. They are human. Everybody is human."

Dr Cora Doherty, a neonatologist speaking on behalf of the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM), is in regular contact with neonatologists in Ukraine.

She has seen the footage from Kyiv’s perinatal centre and is concerned the babies’ care is being compromised - despite health professionals desperately trying to do their best.

'It is really, really important that we support both these mothers and their babies'

“We know that if babies do not get the proper care around the time at birth, that particularly if they're ill, there is an increased risk of death in those babies,” she says.

“Well, for newborn babies, they're probably, you know, they're incredibly vulnerable and they're at the start of life.

"And it's what we know is it's really important to optimize everything at that time in relation to improving long term outcomes in relation to sort of disease and morbidity.

"But we also know that if babies do not get the proper care around the time at birth, that particularly if they're ill, there is an increased risk of mortality, essentially death in those babies.

"And that's essentially the, you know, the future denigrate generation, you know, there. So it is really, really important that we support both these mothers and their babies and in their plight.”

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Dr Doherty says how complicated transferring a unit like this is.

“You don't just pick a baby up from one area and drop them somewhere else. You need to continue to provide intensive care while you're on the move,” she says.

She says they’re supporting the Polish Coalition of Preemies which is trying to help neonatal intensive care units in Ukraine with resources and transfers of babies.

But scenes like this are not just a medical issue - they’re a potential international humanitarian legal breach too. Richard Hermer QC, a human rights legal specialist, told ITV News that it is crucial for health professionals to keep hold of photos and recordings they were making.

“Bombing of hospitals is a clear and serious violation of International Humanitarian Law - the law of war - and is a war crime.

"And the intentional infliction of suffering on a civilian population which is cruelly exemplified by the suffering of neonates - by definition the most vulnerable in our society - shows further breaches in this law," he says.