Almost six million Ukrainians have left Ukraine, among them a large number of cancer patients who, thankfully, received treatment in Belgium and the EU.
Due to many hospitals being bombed by the Russian Army, many Ukrainian refugees were also patients who could no longer receive treatment in their country.
One organisation that has been assisting many of these patients is CF Patients of Ukraine – a charity fund that unites different organisations with different diseases and communicates with the government and the Ministry of Health in Ukraine regarding issues of drug procurement.
Athena - Women Against Cancer is a member of the organisation CF Patients of Ukraine. The Vice-President, Viktoria Romaniuk, told the Brussels Times about the situation regarding the patients from Ukraine.
Getting patients out
Romaniuk spoke about the day the first bombs landed. “I returned from Kyiv on the morning of the 24th of February, where I was on business for our organisation. I arrived in my hometown, Lutsk, at five in the morning.
"Missile attacks began all over Ukraine, including Lutsk. When I visited Athena in the morning, I saw panic and chaos. They urgently evacuated and discharged the patients there, and those who were not transportable were sent to bunkers.”
At the time of the interview, 906 hospitals had been damaged by the bombings, with 123 destroyed. These are not only cancer centres but medical institutions as a whole.
“Previously, the state could not provide cancer patients with drugs, but patients could purchase them themselves. But with the war, many people lost their houses and jobs, putting the treatment of cancer patients in a very critical condition,” explained Romaniuk.
At first, people travelled on their own, trying to find treatment and safety. European countries, including Belgium, stepped up and eased the process as much as possible.
By the summer, medical treatment and evacuation of patients with military injuries and cancer were arranged by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the EU.
“The care received by the patients has been free and will continue to be free in European countries,” Romanuik stated.
“We feel the huge support for the citizens of Ukraine, from the leaders of different states, including Belgium, and various voluntary public organisations, which immediately responded to help our patients.”
Regarding Belgium’s role, Romaniuk said, “it was the Belgian foundation that supported our activities and we are very grateful for that. We recently received a grant from the King Baudouin Foundation and have organised a hotline for Ukrainian cancer patients to get more information.”
To those wishing to offer more help, Viktoria mentioned: “you can make donations to our work organisation, Athena, or to the platform ‘the Patients of Ukraine charity fund’, which supports especially vulnerable groups of patients. These includes cancer patients, as well as their medicine. Any help would be appreciated.”
- Belgium frees up 150 hospital beds for patients from Ukraine
- Belgium to send €3.4 million medical supplies to Ukraine
As for those still in Ukraine, the situation is less hopeful. While those in Ukraine are doing their best, delivery of medicine is not an easy task.
Those residing in the now Russian-occupied territories, unfortunately, can not receive medical care. There have been several attempts to transfer medicine through volunteers to these regions, but it is not easy and takes a long time.
Viktoria warned that the number of people getting cancer will increase, specifically in the case of lung cancer.
The air quality due to the different emissions created during the war and particulate matter will cause more lung cancer cases. This phenomenon, combined with people who will not get to a doctor in time for an early diagnosis, will be a major problem in the future.