On the trail of humanitarian aid in the liberated territories of Ukraine | War in Ukraine

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On the trail of humanitarian aid in the liberated territories of Ukraine | War in Ukraine

Travel the roads of Ukraine alongside members of the International Association for Medical Cooperation (IACM) who distribute medical supplies to cities in Ukraine devastated by the Russian occupation.

Even though they are officially liberated, several Ukrainian cities continue to suffer from the shelling of Russian artillery.

Nelly Furtado and Timbaland sing Promiscuousin the big Toyota Tundra driving behind a tractor-trailer loaded with 20 tons of humanitarian aid.

Heading to Balaklia, in the northeast, in a devastated region liberated in September by the Ukrainian army, after more than six months of ruthless Russian occupation. This is where Izioum is, another martyr city razed by the invader.

It will be necessary to cross dangerous zones, where there is still shelling from Russian artillery, to come to the rescue of tens of thousands of people. Shells are still raining down in Koupiansk, not far away.

At the wheel, Christian Carrer, a French pediatrician. With his partner Tetyana Grebenchykova, he leads the International Association for Medical Cooperation (IMAC), which receives support from the Canada-Ukraine Foundation and the Government of Ontario, among others.

Dr Christian Carrer and his partner Tetyana Grebenchykova distribute tons of medical equipment and humanitarian aid in cities devastated by fighting and Russian occupation.

The three-vehicle convoy will take more than five hours to travel from the Poltava warehouse to Balaklia, a mere 200 km, but over cracked, gunfire-damaged roads with countless military checkpoints – because there are still fears of Russian infiltration and a lot of weapons are circulating.

As early as 2014, this burly fellow with the face of an adventurer was on the ground to help the victims of the Donbass region, not far from there, invaded by the Russians. Last January, he suspected that the dangerous neighbor was up to something.

There were bizarre groupings and constant provocations, he says while driving. Everyone knew that, clearly, something was going to happen.

His organization then began to pre-position various items, including bandages. Those who finance us had confidence in us, because we had sensed the aggression.

A humanitarian aid truck from the organization AICM, funded by the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, in Balakliya, in Ukraine.

The donors are as much French as American or British. Canada is the third most generous to the IMCA.

We delivered to the last hospital on the morning of February 24 (the day the Russians started the war), said the doctor, who adds that one of his collaborators was practically then in a war zone and the Russian planes were flying above his head.

The AICM is therefore well equipped and knows the terrain. The organization focuses its targeted assistance on just a few oblasts in the northeast, 3,200 locations to serve in six regions.

It has more than 800 references in its directory, compared to 250 for a normal pharmacy: general or specialized medicines that hospitals, dispensaries and pharmacies in disaster areas can order. Two pharmacists and a doctor take care of managing the stocks.

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Even though these regions are officially liberated, they are in complete dereliction.

On the road, in the middle of immense plains, a succession of modest villages with destroyed or repaired dwellings, gas stations and closed businesses, sometimes dilapidated residential towers of the time Soviet Union, fields whose crops could not be harvested.

A constant hum comes from the rolling of the tires: the road has been jagged by the incessant passage of the heavy tanks of #x27;assault and their tracks.

A woman searches for personal belongings in the rubble of her bombed-out house in Sloviansk.

The suffering and destruction of war can be heard and seen everywhere.

The inhabitants have nothing left to live on. The occupier has emptied pharmacies, ransacked hospitals, and the food supply is largely insufficient.

We pass through Shugouyev, a municipality where the ;AICM had pre-positioned drugs, but that was busy. The Russians took it all, laments Dr. Carrer.

The health of the people who had to live for weeks in the shelters turns out to be pitiful. They look like zombies, they even lose their teeth sometimes, and the outside doctors who came to the scene were shocked, says the humanitarian professional.

The vulnerability of pregnant women, young children and young mothers particularly affects this pediatrician who has made it one of his missions: a good part of the delivery of the day is intended for them.

Arrival in Balaklia, a desolate locality, with some buildings completely gutted. In particular, acts of torture have been reported there.

It is there, in an old warehouse, that the aid worth 3 million US dollars will be unloaded, to be then distributed in eight surrounding municipalities.

The AICM refuses to distribute aid directly to people in need.

There are administrations (authorities) for that, the physical distribution , it's not for us, justified Christian Carrer, who pleads for the protection of the anonymity of the patients he helps.

The International Association for Medical Cooperation (IMAC) distributed 20 tons of medical equipment during this tour of the liberated Ukrainian cities.

“It's a matter of respect for people who are in deep shit. We have respect for them. It could happen to us one day too. »

— Christian Carrer, pediatrician and leader of the International Association for Medical Cooperation

A small welcoming committee is there, including the chief from the Izium district administration, Stepan Maselski.

This help is very important, because we are still at war, he said in interview with The Canadian Press.

“The invader has destroyed our infrastructure. Until two days ago we had no electricity or water. The occupation was painful, no medicine, no medical supplies, no good food.

— Stepan Maselski, Head of Izium District Administration

A few crates destined for hospitals in the area are immediately transferred from the Toyota pickup truck to a van.

A forklift takes care of emptying the tractor-trailer of its huge pallets. Boxes and boxes of medicines for people with chronic ailments, epilepsy, heart problems, anesthetics for surgery, all kinds of surgical equipment, orthoses, bandages, gloves, stethoscopes, adult diapers and for children, etc.

And Similac infant formula, because child malnutrition is widespread, laments the pediatrician.

Often women who have given birth can hardly breastfeed, due to stress and the context, a he explained. Ontario has also provided vitamins and their effect has been almost miraculous, he confirms.

In addition, food boxes including everything you need to cook well in Ukraine have been made for residents and refugees in the area, in addition to toilet kits for all these women and all these men who have lost everything.

Some end up in school gymnasiums in poor villages, barely dressed and not having even had time to take the necessary , says the doctor.

There are even crates of food for animals, because it is rare here: however, everywhere, we see Ukrainians who bring in transport, trains, buses their little companions whom they consider as members of the family .

A very special large red bag, which looks a bit like an insulated delivery bag, is given to Paulina, a medical officer who intervenes throughout the territory for emergency care. It's a kind of very complete first aid kit designed by doctors in California for disaster areas, with different sets to treat whether it is an injury caused by a mine or a heart attack.

These supplies are of much better quality for the citizens who need them here, she detailed.

The unloading is suddenly interrupted. Forklift failure.

But the Ukrainians are patentees: they tow the old thing with a tractor, as they have done so often in viral videos with Russian tanks, and they improvise a wobbly wooden ramp to finish emptying the pallets from the truck. truck.

Volunteer distributes free food to people without electricity after recent attacks Russians, in a shelter in the town of Vyshhorod, north of kyiv.

Counting on the resourcefulness of the Ukrainians, the AICM has also delivered large quantities of warm blankets as well as small black wood stoves manufactured in the Poltava region. Because many citizens have nothing left to heat themselves due to power outages, so they will be able to install this rudimentary heating.

But if the Ukrainian state has been able to show such resilience and agility, then why does it not yet provide basic services to its population in its liberated territories?

The answer is complex. The health budget had to be cut by 18-20% due to the war effort, says Carrer, who has lived in Ukraine since 2006.

Also, their annual equipment and funding endowment comes in February March and that's when the Russian invasion took place. Refugees also come to drain the resources calculated according to the local populations.

There are enormous needs in all the hospitals, notes the French doctor. And now it's serious, we see the hospitals coming to the end of their tether.

“We used to deliver two boxes to them, now we deliver pallets, basic things, plaster, gloves, cotton. »

— Christian Carrer, pediatrician and leader of the International Association for Medical Cooperation

Night is falling quickly. It is cold. The heavyweight is now emptied and we have to leave again, go through all the checkpoints again towards Poltava.

Christian Carrer already knows that the AICM will have to return soon with another load.

Either a good soul is there to help, or they'll call us back in a month. We are the first to help and maybe the last to help.

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