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Responding to Crisis in Ukraine

The organization is providing urgent medical aid while preparing for a longer-term response.


Ukraine Relief

Emergency Medical Backpacks depart Direct Relief's warehouse on March 1, 2022, bound for Lviv, Ukraine. The backpacks, which contain medical essentials for triage care, were requested by Ukraine's Ministry of Health. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

Direct Relief’s response to the conflict in Ukraine is immediate – and ongoing. The organization has deployed a consignment of emergency packs to equip field medics in Ukraine and is preparing to provide additional deliveries of medical support for Ukraine and the surrounding countries receiving refugees during this crisis.

Direct Relief is working directly with Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and other on-the-ground partners to provide hundreds of emergency medical backpacks – used by first responders in the field to treat injuries and other effects of the crisis – along with critical care medicines, sutures, Combat Application Tourniquets, oxygen concentrators, antibiotics, and much more.

But conflict doesn’t just cause direct injuries.

Emergency Medical Backpacks depart Direct Relief’s warehouse on March 1, 2022, bound for Lviv, Ukraine. The backpacks, which contain medical essentials for triage care, were requested by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

From increasing the spread of infectious diseases to interrupting maternal health care, humanitarian crises can cause catastrophic damage to the health of people displaced or otherwise affected. Direct Relief is drawing on its extensive history of humanitarian response to determine what will be needed next – and is working to procure it.

“We’re looking at the two tracks of trauma-related health needs that are going to arise from a war situation, as well as the indirect effects of mass evacuations,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe.

Top Stories

The Direct Effects of Conflict

Therapies for patients recovering from Covid-19 arrive in Ukraine for distribution to medical facilities treating patients in Sept. 2021. Direct Relief has supported Ukraine’s health system and local health organizations with $26 million in medical aid over the last six months and will continue to do so. (Ministry of Health photo)

The situation: While hundreds of civilian deaths and more than 1,600 injuries have been reported thus far, the actual numbers are likely higher.

“Right now, the types of items being urgently requested indicate they are dealing with severe, acute injuries,” said Direct Relief’s Director of Pharmacy and Clinical Affairs Alycia Clark. “The medications and supplies are typically utilized in a critical care setting.”

The response: At the request of Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, with which Direct Relief has an ongoing relationship, the organization supplied 360 emergency medical backpacks intended for first responders working in the field during and after humanitarian conflicts and other disasters.

In addition, at the request of both the Ministry and other partners responding in the region, Direct Relief is supplying oxygen concentrators, specialized Combat Application tourniquets, critical care medicines intended for ICU settings, IV fluids, antibiotics, and a range of other medical aid.

The organization will continue to monitor the situation and respond as needed.

From Diabetes to Covid-19, Humanitarian Crisis and Its Consequences

Medical donations arrived last week for health care organizations in Ukraine supported by Direct Relief. (Courtesy photo)

The situation: Early estimates suggest that the current conflict could displace as many as 5 million Ukrainians.

And as Clark explained, humanitarian conflicts and displacements cause indirect health consequences as well: They separate people from essential chronic disease medications – often causing acute medical crises – and increase the spread of infectious diseases like Covid-19. They also disrupt routine services like maternal health care, and the trauma of the experience affects mental health.

“These challenges are a reality when an emergency displaces people, every single time,” Clark explained. “This just happens to be large scale across so many different countries.”

The response: “There’s a lot to be drawn from other refugee crises in the past,” said Emergency Response Director Dan Hovey. “No healthcare system is equipped to handle hundreds of thousands of new patients in a matter of days, especially after being overwhelmed by two years of Covid. The supply and personnel needs will be immense.”

Ukraine has some particular health-related problems, including low oxygen supplies and high rates of HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Direct Relief has shipped $26 million in medical aid to Ukraine over the past six months. In addition, the organization is keeping a close watch on Ukraine’s oxygen supplies; access to insulin and other cold-chain medications; infectious diseases like Covid-19, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and polio; and impact on maternal and child health.

Direct Relief is also actively working with the manufacturers of essential medical products to facilitate donations to the Ukraine crisis, including to the surrounding countries receiving refugees.

In the News

New York Times – How You Can Help Ukraine

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