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Introduction: the Refugee and IDP Status in Ukraine
The Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 marked a dramatic escalation of an eight-year conflict, which had been largely confined to the east of the country, and precipitated a massive humanitarian crisis. Millions were forced to flee Ukraine to neighboring host countries on a scale not witnessed in Europe for decades. By the end of 2022, some 7.9 million refugees had fled Ukraine and sought protection across Europe. As of July 21, 2023, according to the Ukraine Situation Flash Update #51 provided by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are currently 5,868,000 Ukrainian refugees recorded globally, and 5,088,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) estimated within Ukraine. These massive numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War. Everything from housing and basic needs to socio-economic inclusion and education in neighboring countries has been difficult and challenging. Hundreds of shelters and refugee centers have been placed within and along the border of Ukraine, providing temporary housing during the initial brutal winter months of the invasion.
Joint cooperation efforts between our partner organizations
Be an Angel Germany has been on the ground since March 4th, 2022 in Moldova and southeast Ukraine. The operations began by chartering buses to evacuate refugees from the Odessa region to Moldova, and then subsequently to Germany. Prior to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Be an Angel Germany had been active since 2015 with assisting and campaigning for refugees to receive housing, funding and legal residency status within Germany. Built upon years of relationships and experience, Be an Angel Germany was best suited to bring Ukrainian refugees to Germany and to work together with local authorities to find them temporary housing and comfortable living situations.
Throughout the following months, a Be an Angel network was established with headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine and Chisinau, Moldova. A system was put in place to work together with the regional administration of Mykolaiv, a city which was under siege and heavy bombardment. Buses were charted and driven to Mykolaiv to evacuate civilians fleeing and brought overnight to stay in shelters in Moldova before being brought to Germany. Once in Germany, a local team coordinates housing and accommodation for the refugees. Each refugee was given extra care and treatment, with follow ups and regular communication to assure that they are taken care of. In the peak summer months, during a battle on the outskirts of Mykolaiv, Be an Angel was operating 3-4 full sized buses a week. Since March 4th 2022, our network has evacuated more than 18,150 refugees from frontline regions and brought them to the European Union for accommodation.
During the Battle of Mykolaiv, 128+ civilians were killed, 545+ wounded and 250,000+ civilians were evacuated.
Evacuation and Treatment of Infants with SMA
Joint cooperation efforts between our partner organizations
A year and a half after the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian hospitals are suffering from significant shortage of doctors, medicine and medical supplies. Many doctors are sent in rotations to frontline hospitals to assist with the high casualty rate, leaving a shortage of staff in every hospital. In addition, the consumption of medicine and medical supplies has increased immensely, leaving a scarcity in all regions of Ukraine. Many treatment options are unavailable or no longer available in Ukraine. In particular, children with severe medical conditions are heavily impacted by these effects. Together with pediatricians at the Children’s Hospital in L’viv, the L’viv Regional Children’s Specialized Clinical Hospital and many more, we provide medical evacuations and facilitate treatment options in Germany for Ukrainian children with special medical cases. In particular, our program focuses on babies with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a genetic neuromuscular disorder primarily affecting children, characterized by the loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brainstem. This leads to progressive muscle weakness and atrophy, impacting voluntary movements, basic motor functions, and even breathing and swallowing. Historically, the infantile form of SMA was almost uniformly fatal by 2 years of age, with a 50% mortality rate by 7 months and a 90% mortality rate by 12 months of age. However, recent medical advances in the past decade for SMA treatment in infants has dramatically increased the survival rate, often times making the effects of the genetic disorder reversible. Unfortunately, these treatment options are not available in Ukraine. This means that if an infant is diagnosed with SMA, it will most likely die if it remains in Ukraine. Thankfully, the United States, Canada and countries within the European Union have these treatments available and can provide them to Ukrainian refugees under certain circumstances.
Our organization provides medical evacuation, resettlement, and facilitates treatment options for the infant and their immediate family. We support the family by finding them treatment locations, organizing staff, equipment and medical transport for the evacuation out of Ukraine, assist them with visa applications, document translation, find them a sponsor and provide them a place to live. Each family is personally taken care of and assisted for several months, making this a very time and labor intensive program. However, the results of the treatment are almost miraculous, with babies who have never been previously able to stand on their feet begin walking within a few months!
If you would like to read more about our SMA program for infants, click on the button below to be redirected to our SMA program webpage.
Every life counts.
Friends of Be an Angel, Women’s Movement for the Future and the Be an Angel network, have evacuated 18 babies to the United States and various countries in the European Union, where they are receiving life-saving treatment.