Humanitarian ‘race against the clock’ in Ukraine, says Médecins Sans Frontières

Humanitarian ‘race against the clock’ in Ukraine, says Médecins Sans Frontières
Credit: Belga

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned that getting the right medical supplies to the right places in besieged Ukraine will be “a race against the clock” before aid can no longer reach the militarily surrounded towns.

“While hospitals in the east are overwhelmed with an increasing number of war trauma patients, their supplies are dwindling,” said Anja Wolz, MSF emergency coordinator in Ukraine.

“And we don't know how long it will be before Kyiv might be cut off. Destruction, aerial bombardment, heavy artillery fire, tank battles, surrounded cities, the beginnings of urban warfare, people taking shelter in bunkers and basements without food, water and electricity - this is what is happening; and it is getting worse.”

Deteriorating situation has made humanitarian efforts difficult

MSF said that the deteriorating situation in Ukraine amid the Russian invasion has made it difficult to conduct their humanitarian operations.

“The brutality, intensity and speed of this war is unlike anything we have seen in a long time,” said Wolz. “And the humanitarian medical response must be large-scale and rapid.”

MSF sent their first deliveries of emergency medical supplies on 5 March, consisting mainly of surgical and trauma equipment and medicines. More supplies have been sent via both trucks and trains in the weeks since and MSF plans to keep delivering, but expects difficulties.

“Getting supplies where they are needed in Ukraine will be a challenge,” MSF said in a press release. “Trains are still running for the most part, and this is a good option because of the volume they can handle, but teams are exploring multiple ways to transport medical supplies safely across the country.”

Refugees fleeing the country also in need of medical attention

Even those who have managed to flee their homes have pressing medical needs.

Temperatures are as low as -7°C in the region and many families were unable to pack the sort of clothing and materials needed to sleep outdoors in such conditions.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in Lviv or are on their way to the Hungarian, Polish or Slovakian border,” MSF explained. “The temperatures are low enough to kill.”

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The organisation is sending 160 m³ of material to help, including more than 2,000 sleeping bags, over 3,500 thermal fleece blankets, thousands of sets of thermal underwear, fleece pullovers, hats, mackintoshes and other clothing, and more than 500 tents, as well as hygiene items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and towels.

These will be passed on to local organisations who will distribute them to people who have fled to Lviv or are queuing at Ukraine's borders, MSF said.

Their first surgical team has also arrived in Lviv.

“Decisions to move closer to areas where there is active fighting to do hands-on medical work cannot be taken lightly,” said Wolz. “We are weighing up various locations and options and will make decisions in the coming day.”


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