image Photo: United Hatzalah, Reuters

Israel aids Ukrainian war refugees

The Jerusalem government and a number of non-profits are supplying humanitarian assistance to victims of the conflict.

By Erin Viner

“In the next two days a plane will arrive in Ukraine with 100 tons of Israeli humanitarian equipment for civilians in the combat zones and those who are trying to leave,” revealed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during yesterday’s Cabinet session.

The cargo includes, “water purification kits, medical equipment as well as drugs, tents, blankets, sleeping bags and additional equipment for civilians who are not in their homes in the cold winter weather,” he said.

IsraAID has also dispatched an emergency team to Moldova to provide urgent support to the large and rapidly growing numbers of Ukrainians fleeing to the border in search of safety.

The humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO) said the team will initially focus on “urgent relief distributions and protection and mental health support for vulnerable, newly-arrived Ukrainian refugees,” and additional provisions “as needed” based on assessments “on the ground in Moldova and other Ukrainian border countries.”

The United Nations has estimated that over 360,000 people have fled to neighboring countries since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.  The Moldovan government reported the crossing of 15,800 Ukrainians within the first 24 hours of the conflict.

IsraAID has worked extensively with displaced people in Europe and around the world in recent years. Last year the NGO launched a program to help Afghan migrants in Albania, while long-term refugee support programs in Greece and Germany have been ongoing since the Middle East refugee crisis in 2015. Teams have also worked to assist displaced populations in post-conflict settings and protracted crises in several nations including Colombia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

“We are deeply concerned by the devastating humanitarian situation that is unfolding in Ukraine. Once again, we are seeing a potential influx of large numbers of refugees in Europe who need urgent support. As we have done in the past, including during the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, IsraAID stands ready to respond, said the NGO’S CEO Yotam Polizer, adding, “For many years now, we have worked with refugees in Europe and around the world, and our focus will be on ensuring the most vulnerable Ukrainians seeking safety have access to urgent supplies and support. Our team will stay in Moldova for as long as we are needed and may deploy to other Ukrainian border countries as the situation develops.”

Saturday night, the United Hatzalah in Israel volunteer paramedic organization launched the first stage of humanitarian aid mission Saturday night, formed at the request of Moldova’s Chief Rabbi Pinchas Salzman in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The “jump team” consists of “12 EMTs, paramedics, doctors, a dentist, and members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit,” tasked with “providing initial aid, assessing needs, and building a comprehensive long-term treatment plan. In Moldova, they will be met with additional team members joining from Miami, Florida,” said a United Hatzalah statement.

“Due to air space closures, we are flying first to Romania, and from there we will be traveling by land to Kishinev in Moldova. There we will connect representatives of the Jewish community, and Israeli representatives from the Foreign Ministry, and together we will build a refined strategy for the mission,” said EMT David Krispel, who is leading the delegation.

An additional team of 30 medical personnel – also EMTs, paramedics, doctors, and members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit – will be joining the team members in the coming days. The volunteers will be joined by Sarit Lerner, the director of the technological division of the “Sheba Beyond” virtual hospital of the Sheba Medical Center, “who will assist with the installation and operation of remote medical equipment that will enable doctors from Israel to train and assist medical practitioners in the field at the border,” said United Hatzalah Vice President of Operations Dov Maisel.

The joint mission will be able to perform procedures at a remote medical station in the field with remote assistance together with specialists at the Sheba Medical Center in real-time.  Advanced technological equipment brought by the teams includes devices for remote physical examination, cardiac and vital sign monitoring, a portable ultrasound and blood testing.

“The advanced equipment in the field will be connected online to Sheba’s computers, so that we can guide, advise, and help the delegation’s staff in providing expert medical care in the field,” said Dr. Galia Barkai, Sheba’s director of the Beyond program.

“As soon as the delegation crystallized, it was clear to us that we could help and be a complementary factor,” Sarit said. “I have no fear of what we face. I see the trip as a true representation of us all, we have a responsibility to utilize the information and capabilities that we possess in order to help others in need and provide humanitarian assistance to our fellow people anywhere in the world.”

Meanwhile, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) is working on an emergency plan to house 1,000 Ukrainian families in rural areas of Israel, first in residential buildings followed by caravan-mobile homes, prospectively on on the northern border, Negev, Arava, Springs Valley near Beit Shean and the Jordan Valley. The WZO is prepared to immediately implement the plan as soon as it receives government authorization, said a statement TV7 received from the organization’s Spokesperson’s Department.

“The ongoing fighting in Ukraine and the uncertainty require the State of Israel to prepare in accordance with the absorption of immigrants from Ukraine. Israel needs to take responsibility for the Jewish communities living there. This is what Israel did in the past, and this is what the Jewish State should do today,” asserted Chairman of the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization Yishai Merling.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is also taking action to help provide emergency aid to those in need.