Global Health Matters – Live Event Series

March 24, 2022

Emergency in Ukraine: Ongoing Humanitarian and Health Response

  • Date:  Thursday – March 24th, 2022
Watch Event

Just four weeks after the intensification of conflict in Russia, more than 3.6 million people have now fled violence in Ukraine. With the massive influx of refugees to neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Poland, health needs among the displaced have reached emergency levels.

In this live web event, we discussed how the international community is responding and the nature of that response. We gather speakers from organisations working on the ground, including INGOs: Amnesty International, GOAL, Americares, and the UN’s international Organization for Migration.

What are the practical needs of supplies and medicines among the displaced? How is the response coping with the COVID-19 issues specific to the crisis? What are the human rights violations and their implications on refugees, including the indiscriminate attacks on civilians? What are the mental health needs of fleeing populations? Watch the video for a discussion on how the immediate needs of the people of Ukraine can be met, and the plans that are in place to safeguard their health and welfare into the near future. 

Moderator

  • Nadine Ferris France, Executive Director, Irish Global Health Network

Speakers:

  • Unarose Hogan: Senior Infectious Disease Advisor and Emergency Medical Responder in Ukraine, Americares
  • Joe Lowry: Senior Media and Communication Officer, International Organization for Migration (United Nations)
  • Colm O’Gorman: Executive Director, Amnesty International (Ireland)
  • Cristian Ghilardi: GOAL Senior Humanitarian Advisor

SPEAKER DETAILS

  • Unarose Hogan, (PhD, MSc, BSc, R.N.) has spent the past seventeen years working in global health security, infection control, academia and clinical practice; primarily living in Sub Saharan Africa but also working in Central and South East Asia and Eastern Europe. Presently she is working as Senior Infectious Disease Advisor with Americares, a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster. From the onset of COVID-19 she worked with WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, focusing on hospital readiness for COVID-19 in the EURO region. Formerly she has worked in several positions with WHO (Albania/ Geneva) and served as Infection Control Advisor for Medical Operations during the Ebola Response with United Nations Mission Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER, Sierra Leone).  She is a board member at the Irish Global Health Network and has served as expert advisory member on the COVID-19 Global Perinatal Taskforce. 
  • Joe Lowry is Senior Communications and Media Officer for UN Migration Agency IOM. With over 20 years experience, he has worked both in journalism and as a Communications specialist in the humanitarian emergency and development sector. His first-hand experience of global, frontline major events in countries around the world including in Haiti, Somalia, Chernobyl, Vietnam, Moldova, and the Philippines among others, has given him a wide and varied perspective on international humanitarian emergencies. Joe also has a history of covering long-term health crises in the global south in particular those relating to HIV, TB, COVID-19 and other major pandemics.
  • Colm O’Gorman is the Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, a position he has held since 2008. Prior to taking up that role, he was the founder and director of One in Four, the national organisation that supports women and men who have experienced sexual violence. He is also a former member of Seanad Eireann, an author and regular media commentator on human rights and social justice issues. 
  • Cristian Ghilardi is the GOAL Senior Humanitarian Advisor for Ireland.  He joined GOAL in 2018.  Cristian has a master’s in international development, postgraduate in Humanitarian action and has significant overseas experience in Humanitarian response in Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Yemen with MSF and also with Care International in Asia. He has also worked as Health Integration Commissioning Manager for the NHS in England. 

A Summary of Points Made

Unarose Hogan, Americares

“There’s an overwhelming need for mental health and psychosocial support services, exacerbation of chronic mental health: PTSD, depression, anxiety, among other things. We anticipate we are going to see it in large volumes: this is also a priority area for Americares”. 

  • Non-communicable diseases and chronic disease pose an enormous challenge. During disaster, we often see increased transmission of infectious diseases due to destruction of water and sanitation, inadequate vaccination coverage, lack of access medicines, as well as movement of populations and crowding,
  • Early intervention of mental illnesses among the migrant and refugee groups can actually help prevent these conditions from becoming chronic and complex.
  • Prior to the Russian invasion Ukraine had already been battling with COVID-19. Conditions on the ground are an ideal environment for a COVID-19 resurgence. Ukraine has an adult population with 34% vaccinated, 10% boosted, and a pediatric vaccination campaign that began just weeks prior to the invasion – in other words, a largely unprotected population.
  • The need for urgent acute medical care to deal with injuries from the conflict is enormous. The conflict zones are mostly inaccessible to humanitarian aid and I anticipate we will see immense needs for trauma and injury support among the refugee population as this continues.
  • In terms of humanitarian response, the initial coordination and set up involved plugging into the health cluster headed by WHO, connecting with the offices for International coordination in Lviv and national authorities.
  • So far, Americares has delivered about four tons of relief and supplies into Ukraine, and they have another half a ton on the way.

Joe Lowry, International Organization for Migration

“If 200,000 people come here, and if we see tens of thousands or more people being hosted by families in their homes, it’s very difficult to see how there’ll be a transition in the medium term into a new arrangement. It’s critically important that we start to build in a wider support structure.”

  • The situation in the border is hard, people want to stay close to their home country. The flow of women refugees is very high, and they are vulnerable to trafficking and other harmful actions.
  • When we talk about protection in this humanitarian crisis the focus must be on the protection of the refugee convention, but overall protection from harm as well protecting people, because of the predominantly female refugee flow.
  • The best way to help in this situation is through donations.

Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International

“You know, you see it in their eyes, their clothes, their face: these are people who were out having a coffee a few days ago, or watching football with their mates, or playing football with their mates, or going shopping, or doing what people do in a European country. And then you see them queuing up in thousands, and obviously every single question going through their mind is about that happens next.”

  • Amnesty has seen the use of indiscriminate weapons against civilians and attacks on protected targets have been recorded. There have been 64 attacks on health care facilities since the conflict started.
  • Ireland does not receive more than 800 people a year as part of its refugee resettlement program. The crisis in Ukraine has been met with an unprecedented flow of refugees into Ireland: 10,000 people have arrived in the country since the beginning of the crisis, and up to 200,000 people will arrive over the next months.
  • It is critically important to build a wider support structure around refugees and refugee families who are in hosted accommodation to ensure the sustainability of that kind of support.
  • More than half of Ukraine’s children have been displaced and about 1.8 million child refugees have left Poland. Trafficking of unaccompanied minors has been proven to be a problem in the middle of the crisis. The challenge is going to be at the national level to respond to this.

Christian Ghilardi, GOAL

“Kindness has to continue, it’s in the media: it’s going to last for a while. We need to make sure that we support the Ukrainian people there, but also when they come to Ireland. We have to be kind and help them integrate because they might be here for a while. There are generations, mostly kids, that we need to make sure are welcomed and supported”. 

  • There are concerns in terms of protection not only when refugees are crossing the border, but also on temporary shelters or distribution centers.
  • GOAL is trying to support local structures and the civil society response to enhance its intervention and relief.
  • Amid this crisis, the COVID-19 massive global crisis must not be forgotten. Inequality in access to vaccines and therapeutics is killing hundreds of thousands of people. Vaccination of refugees to prevent the spread of COVID-19 must be a priority too.

 

Resources 

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