Caring for people fleeing war in Ukraine

MSF mobile clinic staff speak with a person in a shelter for displaced people in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Ukraine.

Ukraine 2022 © MSF

Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by heavy fighting in eastern and southeastern Ukraine have sought safety in the Dnipropetrovsk region and in Zaporizhzhia city, according to local authorities.

The host communities have transformed every possible place into shelters for displaced people, including homes, schools, churches, sports complexes, offices, administrative buildings, and hotels.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has expanded activities in areas close to the front line and in places hosting people who have fled their homes. MSF mobile clinic teams are providing medical and psychological care to displaced people living in more than 70 shelters in and around Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia.

“We see many elderly, people with disabilities, and people who can’t afford to make the journey further west in Ukraine or abroad,” said Célia Burnand, MSF project coordinator in Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia. “Our job is to complement the impressive work of the local authorities, volunteers, health care staff and social workers and make sure people who’ve been through incredibly traumatic experiences get the medical and psychological care they need.”

Each mobile clinic team is made up of a medical doctor, nurse, psychologist and health educator. Doctors provide medical consultations and medicines, connect patients with specialists if needed and refer severely unwell people to local hospitals. They currently carry out an average of 60 consultations each day.

“We see many patients with chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and epilepsy,” said Dr. Sasha Sholokov, MSF medical activity manager. “The conflict has made it hard for them to get the regular care and medications they need, and we need to make sure their condition doesn’t become worse.”

Psychologists provide initial psychological care—also known as psychological first aid—to people who have arrived recently, as well as individual and group mental health sessions for adults and children. Since April 25, MSF teams have provided more than 200 mental health consultations. They also run trainings for Ukrainian first responders in administering psychological first aid.

“The situation has become more complicated for many people we see,” said Lina Villa, MSF’s mental health activity manager. “At the beginning they were planning to go back home to Donetsk and Luhansk, but they now realize this is becoming less and less likely. They know everything at home has been destroyed and they can’t get their old lives back. They face a lot of uncertainty, and I see some start to lose the hope they had a couple of months ago. We try to help them regain a feeling of control in a situation that’s completely unpredictable.”

MSF has teams supporting people displaced by the conflict in many areas of Ukraine, including in Berehove, Chernihiv, Dnipro, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kropyvnytskyi, Mukacheve, Uzhhorod, Vinnytsia, and Zaporizhzhia.