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In Eastern Ukraine, I’ve seen the impact conflict has on communities, the needless suffering it causes.
I’ve also seen the tireless efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help reduce this impact.
For the past year, I’ve been working with ICRC to provide health assistance to people living close to Ukraine’s front line. In the small communities close to this line, many government health services have collapsed completely. Pharmacies have closed down, and vulnerable populations such as the elderly are feeling the impact.
As part of ICRC’s Severodonetsk health team, I helped implement programmes that are now assisting thousands of vulnerable civilians caught up in this conflict.
One of these programmes helps elderly people living near the line of conflict obtain free, regular medication to manage chronic disease, like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
Another has helped the Ukrainian Red Cross set up Mobile Health Clinics to visit isolated communities. It’s been a very time-intensive project, given the complex logistics of getting the clinics into insecure locations, but it now provides primary healthcare services to 30 communities.
ICRC has also started a new healthcare initiative at a crossing point linking government and non-government controlled territories.
Between the opposing forces, there is a two kilometre ‘grey zone’, a no-man's land that must be walked by all who wish to cross. Up to 10,000 people use this crossing every day.
At the height of summer, large numbers of these people require emergency assistance. Some are dehydrated, some experience seizures or hypoglycaemic episodes and others have heart attacks.
ICRC has provided a cooling point (which also functions as a heating point in winter) and access to emergency healthcare at the crossing point, helping the thousands of people crossing every day make it through safely.
Whether it’s supporting hospitals that treat the war-wounded or developing programmes to provide cash assistance to the injured, Red Cross’ work is helping those who have been caught up in this needless suffering. Working in Ukraine over the past year has kept me very busy, but it has been incredibly rewarding.