Doctors Without Borders medicalises two Ukrainian railways to transport the injured, the elderly and the sick from Donbass to the west of the country | European volunteers are organizing to help in the region’s cities most affected by the Russian offensive
The terrified grandmother trembles as ambulance technicians in red jumpsuits and body armor lower her gently onto a stretcher and carry her to the train. His eyes move frantically from east to west and from north to south, confused by the presence of people with shortwave radios and papers in hand, counting, writing down names and deciding which car to get into.
More than the war, he is troubled by not understanding what is happening around him. “It’s something that worries us a lot. Every time we transport more and more elderly people alone, very vulnerable, who at first did not leave their city because they had no one to join them and now travel alone,” said Yasser Kamaledin, head of the MSF operation, with his gaze fixed on the stretcher where the old woman can hardly contain her fear: “We worry about what will become of them when they reach other cities far from their surroundings, where they know no one.”
Just a few hours earlier, two rockets had hit about 500 meters from Pokrovsk train station, the only one in the Donbass still in Ukrainian hands and a vital artery for the evacuation of displaced persons from Russia’s coveted provinces, leaving four injured and leaving a ten-foot crater, but the MSF team seemed as accustomed as their patients to the unforeseen circumstances of war. Half a dozen ambulances waited their turn beside the tracks, waiting for MSF personnel to transport their passengers on the medicalized train donated by Ukrzaliznytsia, the Ukrainian state railway company, an essential institution in managing the evacuations. transportation of humanitarian equipment and supplies to all corners of the country at war. There are actually two trains modified by the NGO, one of the most active and visible trains in Ukraine, used to transport injured or vulnerable people with special needs; the second train, more modern, even has a five-bed ICU carriage and everything needed to deal with emergencies. In the cars, the seats have been replaced with hospital beds and droppers for serum and medicines, and in each window rests a briefcase containing the occupants’ medical reports.
The project started at the end of April and since then there have already been 21 humanitarian journeys on the train that started Wednesday from Pokrovsk to Lviv. “Our mission is to relieve Ukrainian hospitals, which are often overloaded, by transferring stabilized patients to medical centers in the west of the country, which is much quieter than Donbas,” explains Yasser Kamaledin, the head of “long-distance ambulances”. in that the limping chariots have become. Most of the passengers, he says, have been injured by explosions or have traumatic injuries from bombings that require post-operative care, although there are also critically ill patients whose ailments can no longer be treated in their cities due to lack of resources, space or personnel.
The intensification of the military offensive, with the cities still under Ukrainian control as cards for the bleak Russian push that has been going on for three months – although it started in Donbass in 2014 – is noticeable in the hospitals and also in the train station from Pokrovsk – the only train leaving the Donbass after the bombing of the Kramatorsk station on April 8, which killed 59 people – where hundreds of people gather to flee to Dnipro aboard passenger cars and two dozen patients They wait in medical vehicles their evacuation in the Médecins Sans Frontières medicalized train.
The fall of Limán in Donetsk, leaving the towns of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk within Russian reach, as well as fierce fighting in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, the last Ukrainian holdouts in Lugansk, have forced many civilians from their homes who had been reluctant to give up until now. “We come from Bakhmut, where things are so bad that we seriously fear for our lives,” explains Maxim, a city dweller who was waiting for a train to Dnipro with his wife and two children. “Last night, while we were sleeping, a bomb fell in our neighborhood. The blast wave blew out our windows and we decided it was time to leave,” he said. A few benches away, Svetlana, 73, grabbed her bags next to her son. “We are from Konstantinovka,” he said, “where every day more explosions I am very afraid and have decided to go with my daughter to Denmark where she lives I would rather not leave because I was born there and this is my homeland but we fear that in a short time the fighting my village and my son urges me to get to safety.
The Russian advance is noticeable in terms of casualties and overcrowded hospitals. “Usually we get evacuation requests from several hospitals a day before departure, so we never know how many we will be transferring, but in the last two or three trips, the number of patients from Donbas has increased dramatically. Among those we pick up in Pokrovsk and Dnipro, there will be 38 today, well above the average we used to move, of 20 or 25 people each way,” Kamaledin continues. “Hospitals don’t need medical equipment so much as more beds. “says the official, with whom 17 other MSF members travel, including doctors, nurses and other staff. The second train is served by 20 toilets. The NGO has already had some 570 people on board since the program started. of the two trains and hopes to continue a campaign that seems especially needed in Donbass, where house by house is being fought and the Russian attack is gaining ground meter by meter.
Doctors Without Borders is the most visible face of an often unknown but vital collaboration. Three vans with stickers belonging to VOSTOK SOS, a Ukrainian NGO founded by activists after the 2014 Russian offensive, and a British flag stop at the evacuation point in Slaviansk. Three British volunteers emerge from one of them and open the back door of the car, where five elderly people are lying on mattresses. From the other two come two Ukrainians: in the seats six other people, including a young child, from different villages in Donetsk who decided to leave because of the approaching Russian arrival. The Brits, two women and a man in their thirties, lift their own weight and carefully place them on stretchers and wheelchairs to facilitate access to the centre.
“We arrived individually with the sole desire to help,” explains the head of the group, which calls itself British Expeditionary Aid and Rescue (BEAR) and refuses to identify himself to avoid reprisals. “We organize ourselves as a team and focus on the most desolate areas, on towns and cities where others don’t come, either because they are occupied or because they have just been liberated,” confides the young engineer who started her job in the United Kingdom. to settle temporarily in Ukraine, where he has been for more than two months. Her partner, a farmer by trade, invested his savings in a van that he used to drive to Ukraine for three days and the third volunteer sleeps in her own van, converted into a tool and a home. “As of yesterday, we had already evacuated more than a hundred people,” the volunteer continues. «People receive us with great emotion, there are people who are relieved to know that they can leave, others are so happy that they try to thank us with gifts, others are very sad. Usually the elderly do not know what is happening and they are afraid of being left in the hands of people they do not know and with whom they cannot even communicate,” he continues. BEAR’s collaboration with VOSTOK SOS makes it possible to dispel this fear. as Ukrainian volunteers take over communication with them to reassure them. “It is important because their evacuation somehow frees those who care for them: once they delegate that responsibility, they themselves are empowered to to flee.”
The British have had no special training and are not out of activism, they simply felt the need to assist in the humanitarian emergency created by the worst conflict in Europe since World War II. On the way back they have displaced people, but on the way, when they leave for the bombed cities, they are loaded with food to help those who do not want to flee, although it becomes more and more difficult for them to find them. that burden, as it is difficult to find activists who, like them, have ventured into the most remote part of the conflict to save lives. “MSF is doing a great job, but other NGOs that claim to be here seem invisible, and the same goes for the UN or the Red Cross. We just don’t see them and people need food, hygiene products and even clothes. All that humanitarian aid they say they are sending seems to only reach Kiev and Lviv and at the moment it is scarce,” the young woman laments. “Unfortunately, the world is getting tired of the war in Ukraine and the flow of international aid is drying up. The world must send food again, as in the beginning, for as long as the war continues, there will be a need.
Source: La Verdad
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