SAN JOSE, California — Ukraine has a long history of political turmoil and foreign interference since it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. From the annexation of Crimea in 2014 to Russia’s covert war in the Donbas, Russia’s actions undermine the territorial and political integrity of Ukraine. Remaining in line with these actions, Russian President Vladamir Putin gave authorization for a military invasion, or what Putin dubs a “special military operation,” against Ukraine on February 24, 2022. During the first week of the invasion, about 1 million refugees fled the destruction and warfare occurring in Ukraine. Ukraine is suffering a critical shortage of medical supplies and Russian missiles have leveled civilian residencies and infrastructure, prompting the need for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. In light of the destruction caused by the Russian invasion, humanitarian aid organizations in Ukraine are prioritizing the funneling of much-needed aid from international donors to Ukrainians.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a severe shortage of necessary medical supplies. In particular, Ukraine is enduring “shortages of zeolite,” an essential resource in the production of medical-grade oxygen. On top of this, polio eradication efforts came to an abrupt halt as emergency care took priority amid the invasion. Furthermore, according to UNAIDS, as of March 1, 2022, Ukraine has ” less than a month’s worth of drugs for HIV patients.”
Beginning in early March 2022, from logistical bases in Bordeaux and Brussels, Doctors Without Borders has been organizing parcels of both medicine and medical equipment to alleviate Ukraine’s medical shortages. To increase the supply capacity for medical assistance, Doctors Without Borders is also establishing warehouses in Western Ukraine.
Project Hope, with more emphasis on supporting Ukrainian refugees, is operating in Eastern Europe to deliver crucial medical supplies to fleeing Ukrainians in coordination with government agencies. In Moldova, Project Hope is coordinating with Moldova’s Ministry of Health to deliver medical supplies to Ukrainian refugees, which includes an Interagency Emergency Health Kit (IEHK) designed to assist 10,000 individuals for a span of three months. The IEHK consists of one ton of medicine and medical supplies, topical treatments, oral therapeutics and medical devices.
Assistance from US Agencies
USAID has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team consisting of 17 disaster experts to assess the humanitarian situation and identify critical necessities for Ukrainians. As of March 1, 2022, USAID has provided thermal blankets via airlift to 23,000 vulnerable Ukrainians to protect against the harsh winter climate. Furthermore, USAID plans to supply hygiene items to maintain the health of more than 52,000 Ukrainians.
Alongside this humanitarian assistance, USAID is providing technical assistance to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. In terms of financial assistance, on February 27, 2022, the U.S. announced that USAID, in coordination with the U.S. Department of State, will provide $54 million worth of humanitarian aid to Ukraine in response to the invasion.
On March 1, 2022, the U.N. and partners made an appeal to the international community for $1.7 billion worth of aid to support the growing humanitarian needs of Ukrainians. The World Food Programme, a U.N. agency, has launched a three-month-long initiative that will supply “in-kind food distributions, multi-purpose cash and food vouchers” to people within Ukraine. UNICEF is establishing “Blue Dot” zones at border points in countries receiving Ukrainian refugees “to support delivery of emergency services to families.” These services and resources include “safe spaces for mothers and children, psychosocial support, basic legal counseling, recreational kits and hygiene products.”
The UNHCR is working throughout Eastern Europe in coordination with local authorities to establish the infrastructure necessary for refugee assistance. The UNHCR is monitoring refugee arrival trends in Poland and Hungary. In Romania, the UNHCR has established a “24/7 emergency hotline” to support refugees, and in Moldova, the UNHCR is assisting the nation “to enhance reception capacity” while distributing essential refugee resources such as “blankets, sleeping bags and hygiene items.”
A Call for Aid to Ukraine
On March 3, 2022, President Joe Biden called on Congress to approve an additional $10 billion worth of humanitarian aid for Ukraine and $22.5 billion to strengthen Ukraine’s COVID-19 response. Republicans are expressing disapproval of the additional COVID-19 funding, stating that it is still unclear whether this added COVID-19 funding is essential.
The war in Ukraine has destroyed infrastructure, lives and livelihoods. The already existing poverty in Ukraine is multiplying and is further exacerbated by the destruction of critical civilian infrastructure and institutions, causing people to lose access to essential resources. Humanitarian aid in Ukraine is absolutely critical in mitigating the damage caused by weakening institutional capabilities.
The most effective way to ensure local politicians are aware of the support for Ukrainian foreign assistance among constituents is through emails and phone calls. The greater the support for Ukrainian foreign assistance among a constituency, the more likely the politician will support Ukrainian foreign assistance. Emails and phone calls can take less than two minutes and have the potential to yield notable results if people collectively demonstrate their support for the delivery of humanitarian aid in Ukraine.
– Alexander Richter