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Medicine Costs for Ukrainian Refugees in Poland Covered by New Direct Cash Aid Program

With $10 Million Commitment, Direct Relief and Pelion S.A. Will Cover Costs of Medicines at Pharmacies Across Poland


Ukraine Relief

Direct Relief and Pelion S.A. are launching a direct assistance program to ensure Ukrainian refugees can access medications needed to maintain their health. (Credit: Oscar B. Castillo for Direct Relief)

Direct Relief and Pelion S.A. today announced Health 4 Ukraine, a direct cash assistance initiative enabling Ukrainian refugees in Poland to obtain prescription medicine at no cost at all pharmacies across the country.

Leveraging Poland’s existing pharmaceutical distribution and payment systems to reach Ukrainian refugees across Poland quickly and efficiently, the program offers electronic credit to cover 100% of prescription co-payments and 85% of non-prescription drug costs. Enrollment in the program is free and begins next week. Information about the program is available at www.Health4Ukraine.com.

The program is seeded with $10 million from the humanitarian nonprofit Direct Relief.

Pelion S.A., Poland’s largest healthcare sector business, will deliver payments to pharmacies through its electronic payments company epruf. Pelion is also donating $1 million in free medical consultations with Ukrainian-speaking doctors through its telemedicine service Dimedic.

Direct Relief and Pelion hope to expand the initiative to cover 400,000 refugees, including 100,000 elderly persons and 300,000 women and children. This expansion, requiring additional donor funding, would cover almost half of the over 880,000 Ukrainian citizens who have registered for a Polish state ID number (PESEL). PESEL numbers allow Polish residents to access state-provided health care and other social services.

“Direct Relief is deeply grateful for Pelion’s leadership in creating this direct and highly efficient means to assist people forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, helping them obtain the essential medications they need for their health,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. “The initial funding of $10 million comes from contributions by thousands of individuals deeply concerned about the welfare of Ukrainians who have had their lives upended and threatened. This approach connects that amazing generosity in a practical, important way to the Ukrainian people for whose benefit Direct Relief received the funds.”

“It is a special day for us and a great privilege to launch a unique, nationwide medicine support program for patients from Ukraine in cooperation with Direct Relief,” said Jacek Szwajcowski, President of the Management Board of Pelion S.A. “The $10 million donated today is extremely significant and real aid, which will go to people in need, mainly mothers with children and the elderly. The program of co-financing the purchase of medicines developed by our company is fully tested and guarantees full transparency. The assistance offered by Direct Relief is additionally supplemented with free telemedicine services in Ukrainian. We have already donated over $1 million for this purpose. I hope that the cooperation initiated today will be long-term and will encourage more donors to join the aid. The scale of the need is huge.”

How It Works

The new Direct Relief–Pelion program will cover 100% of prescription copays and 85% of costs for certain over-the-counter healthcare expenses for Ukrainian refugees by loading cash credit onto epruf’s web application. Each participant will receive access to their account in the web application, tied to each person’s PESEL number. The program works at any pharmacy in Poland. More than five million people in Poland use epruf’s payment systems.

Each participant will receive a credit of 500 Polish zloty (about 117 USD)—the estimated per-person subsidy required for six months of prescription and non-prescription medical expenses, based on more than ten years of data tracked by epruf. Participants will be eligible for a second top-up after four months.

Nearly all prescription drugs will be covered, including medicines for widespread chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Because all payments will flow through the epruf system directly to pharmacies, the program provides transparency and accountability.

Many refugees fled Ukraine with little cash, are unable to return to Ukraine anytime soon, and thus must establish new lives for themselves.

Direct Relief’s Response to Date

Direct Relief is one of only a handful of non-governmental organizations recognized by the Ukrainian Ministry of Health as “international partners,” along with United Nations agencies like the World Health Organization, multilateral organizations including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and national government aid agencies like USAID: https://en.moz.gov.ua/international-partners?page=3.

Responding to requests from the Ministry of Health and other local healthcare providers, Direct Relief has delivered over 206 tons of medications and supplies, covering health conditions ranging from traumatic injuries to cancer to diabetes to Covid-19. Direct Relief has also fulfilled requests for medications needed to respond to chemical attacks.

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