As of the writing of this article, nearly 5.5 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine. It is the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, with an anticipated 8 million refugees fleeing the country in the end.
Because the Ukrainian government has issued a travel ban on most men from leaving the country, the refugee exodus consists of women, children, and the elderly. UNICEF estimates that more than half the children of Ukraine have either become refugees or internally displaced.
Multiple NGOs have mobilized to attempt to provide care for fleeing refugees, trying to deliver aid into Ukraine or intercept them and provide aid at the border crossing.
Here’s why providing ongoing medical care to Ukrainian refugees is so critical. The British Medical Journal estimates as many as 15% of the women fleeing Ukraine need emergent reproductive care. 30% of refugees have hypertension and 7% have diabetes. Ukraine has increased rates of HIV and tuberculosis, for which refugees need screening and care; only 35% of the population is vaccinated against COVID and so refugee crowding increases the risk of spreading Sars-CoV-2.
Even before the current crisis in Ukraine, only 85% of eligible children had been immunized for measles, well below the World Health Organization target of 95%.
War and political instability are also catalysts for the resurgence of polio. Ukraine suffered a polio outbreak in 2016. A concerted vaccination campaign followed with some oblasts (administrative regions) in Ukraine reached high levels of vaccination. However, only 53% of one-year-olds were immunized against polio at the end of 2021, setting the stage for a sweeping outbreak.
Our Medical Director Dr. Thomas Barriers and his partners have launched a humanitarian project in Europe to help tackle problems like language barriers, physician licensing, and cross-border prescribing. They are working with companies around the world and European governments to connect refugees to care and medication – and they’re seeking seeking medical providers with Ukrainian and Russian language skills, particularly those licensed in the EU, the UK, and Moldova.
You can learn more about their project by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2023 update: Other NGOs have taken over the project at this point. You can find more information on helping Ukrainian refugees here.