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Ukraine Conflict Response Update

Shortly after the armed conflict started on 24 February 2022, LC reached out to both its member organisations in Ukraine and Russia to see how this was impacting their activities and if LC could help. While we all have our political beliefs surrounding this conflict, LC’s first thought was how is this impacting patients? Our Member organisation in Ukraine, Ukrainian Public Association for patients with chronic lymphoproliferative diseases, who is closely linked with the Ukrainian Hematology Association, responded right away and asked for help. The conflict caused critical damage to their healthcare systems and forced cancer patients to seek help abroad. This type of work is not normally part of Lymphoma Coalition’s scope, but by engaging a wide network of support, 80 patients and their caregivers were moved to other countries for treatment.

LC’s work included:

  • Identified main stakeholders supporting patients in Ukraine’s displacement zone, humanitarian corridors, first line of support (surrounding countries namely Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia), and second line (wider Europe).
  • Coordinating the health response between Ukraine and surrounding countries, to ensure Ukrainians crossing the border could receive support and information about their options in this situation and guided to centres where their care could continue.
  • Maintaining a dynamic prioritised list of haematological patients needing care; a registry of patients with lymphoma who would benefit from accessing care outside of Ukraine. This work, led by Dr Iryna Kryachov, was collated from contact with haematologists who belong to the Ukrainian Haematology Association. It included, at minimum, basic information on the diagnosis, current treatment, and status of the patients’ care.
  • Monitoring capacities of cancer health facilities and service assessments.
  • Established a network of cancer centres in a number of countries who volunteered to take in patients from Ukraine. By 13 March the Fondazione Italiana Linfomi (FIL) and its network of around 150 centres distributed throughout Italy (hospitals, scientific hospitalization and treatment institutes, local health authorities, university centres) agreed  to support the diagnosis and treatment of patients with a haematological cancer from Ukraine and ended up becoming a central partner.
  • Scaling-up surveillance and health information to detect and respond to outbreaks early and to better understand health needs, health threats, and the functionality and availability of health services.
  • Providing technical support: mobilising partners response, the Noncommunicable Diseases Management (NCD) Technical Working Group (NCD TWG), which is a network guided by the core principles set out in the UN Interagency Task Force on NCDs in Emergencies (2016); the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN); and the Global Health Cluster, among others.
  • Providing health supplies and logistic capacity to deliver medicines, diagnostics and preventive supplies.
  • Monitoring attacks on healthcare facilities, including daily assessments of the hospitals capacities in Ukraine to anticipate how cancer services and lymphoma care was being disrupted. These assessments evolved later to weekly.

This effort was truly teamwork at its best and LC would like to specifically acknowledge the following partners who were instrumental in this effort, though many more helped with this initiative.

  • LC Member organisations who created information in Ukrainian and provided practical support to help patients find the support needed and settle into new countries while their cancer care continued. This includes (but is not limited to) establishing an onco-help line, organising accommodation, food provision, financial aid to ensure patients and their loved ones had everything they needed when they first arrived, providing information and practical support to get paperwork done, help in bureaucratic and legal procedures with the use of interpreters and translators, and any other special needs to ensure not only the patient but their caregivers and children could normalize as much as possible this significant change to their lives. A special thanks to Associazione Italiana contro le Leucemie-linfomi e mieloma – Pazienti (AIL) in Italy and Lymfoma a Leukémia Slovensko (LyL) in Slovakia.
  • Helping to Leave who managed the physical transportation of patients out of Ukraine and to their destination.
  • EHA who provided practical and financial support for these efforts, including connecting LC to national haematology associations and service providers to help with safe delivery of medical information.
  • ECO-ASCO Special Network, of which LC was a founding member, that has been instrumental in connecting all stakeholders across Europe and inside Ukraine, including WHO and UN representatives.
  • EBMT, WBMT and the  resulting “Help for Ukrainian Haematology Patients (HUP)”, a global initiative supporting the continuity of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in Ukraine in a time of conflict.
  • Of course the Ukrainian Hematology Association who we worked very closely with in identifying patients in need and current care capacity in Ukraine, the medical students who translated patient records, the brave healthcare professionals in Ukraine who continued to provide care to the best of their ability in awful, dangerous conditions, and the patients and their loved ones who were brave enough to make the journey and adapt to a new country for care despite most not knowing the local language and their fear for what was happening to their family and friends they left behind.

This work continues as the conflict continues. Thank you to everyone who continues to provide support. The way the community has rallied to ensure patients impacted by the conflict receive needed care shows a deep level of commitment and dedication.