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SCCM Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

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The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has quickly become historic for its magnitude. The conflict has also led to crisis within the Ukrainian healthcare system. Here is how the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) has been helping.

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has quickly become historic for its magnitude. Thousands of people have died and the number of Ukrainian residents who fled the country has led to Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.1 The conflict has also led to crisis within the Ukrainian healthcare system.
More than 70 healthcare workers have been killed and nearly 100 healthcare facilities and more than 12 ambulances have been seriously damaged or destroyed. Many more have been injured. Approximately 1000 healthcare facilities are in close proximity to conflict areas or in changed areas of control across Ukraine. These facilities and their staff need support and assistance. Here is how the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) has been helping.

Medications and Supplies

Beyond the structural damages, one of the major challenges facing Ukrainian healthcare professionals is a shortage of oxygen supplies, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 1700 people are being treated for COVID-19 in Ukraine, and less than 40% of the country is fully vaccinated against it.
The World Health Organization has estimated that the demand for oxygen due to the conflict will increase by 20% to 25%. With demand growing and supply drastically decreasing, SCCM is rapidly sourcing oxygen concentrators, ultraviolet luminaires for disinfecting, and other supplies.
SCCM has partnered with Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization and one of only three charities approved by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, to coordinate delivery of medications and supplies. Direct Relief’s mission is to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies, without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.
SCCM coordinated with Direct Relief to deliver 350 tons of field medic packs, insulin, oxygen concentrators, wound care supplies, and other essential medical resources. This effort provided 68 million doses of essential medications. SCCM also connected Direct Relief with more than 800 health facilities in Ukraine, allowing more medical supplies and financial support to flow into areas where they are needed most.

“Direct Relief is deeply grateful for the Society of Critical Care Medicine and their support of health facilities providing acute care for patients,” said Thomas Tighe, CEO and President of Direct Relief. “SCCM provided critical connections at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing inroads for medical support of ICUs in U.S. hospitals, a first in Direct Relief’s then-72-year history. We are happy to continue this relationship to expand aid to the people of Ukraine and surrounding areas.”
In addition to oxygen supply shortages, SCCM is monitoring multiple other healthcare issues in Ukraine. Insulin and other cold chain noncommunicable disease medications are expected to be in critically short supply. An estimated 15,000 children in Ukraine have type 1 diabetes, and access to insulin for children, as well as for adults, will become a critical issue. This shortage will likely be exacerbated by supply chain disruptions, pharmacy closures, and power interruptions.

Caring for Special Populations

“The crisis in Ukraine is not coming to an end or even slowing down,” said Katerina Takovska, regional advisor to Direct Relief. “The situation on the ground may have changed slightly—or is changing—but mostly in terms of where people are, not so much what their needs are. There is still a lot of work to be done to address those needs—chronic conditions, need for hospital treatment, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, and mental health needs as people endure war.”
Ukraine has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDs in the region, and tuberculosis is also a major challenge. Ukraine has also been fighting a polio outbreak since 2021. The disruption in access to medications and health services combined with the displacement of communities will negatively impact these public health challenges.
SCCM is also concerned about new and pregnant mothers and their children, who will be exceedingly vulnerable as the conflict continues, with resultant shortages of food and other supplies. In certain areas, damage to gas and power infrastructure will also have a major impact, particularly as temperatures drop.
“It is necessary to stay flexible to be able to adjust to the changing situation and the migration patterns of the people—moving within Ukraine, leaving the country, and coming back to Ukraine,” Ms. Takovska said. “Supporting and sustaining the existing systems and ensuring they are ready to resume their regular functions once the acute period of the crisis is over, and even being prepared to quickly assess the needs for further development, are top priorities. Ukraine had a robust and relatively well-established healthcare system in place before the war started. Most of the facilities remained functional at a certain capacity. It’s important to support the existing systems instead of trying to create parallel systems. International aid should be integrated into the existing systems under the leadership of Ukrainian officials.”

Cash Awards

To help speed the delivery of medical supplies, humanitarian aid, and other services to Ukraine, SCCM and Direct Relief pooled some of their donor contributions to provide more than $800,000 in grants to frontline healthcare facilities. SCCM and Direct Relief partnered with two U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations—Global Outreach Doctors and Global Response Management—that are providing direct patient care in Ukraine to identify hospitals in need. Awardees will receive $50,000 grants to purchase medical supplies, services, and other needed items.
“The U.S. medical system has advanced significantly in trauma and critical care practices over the past 20 years, in large part because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Andrea Leiner, chief communications officer for Global Response Management. “Working with Ukrainian colleagues to share those difficult lessons during their time of need has been an honor. Thanks to SCCM, we have been able to provide pathways for Ukrainian hospitals to meet those needs and care for complex injuries resulting from the conflict.”

Mass Casualty Training Resources

To train the Ukranian healthcare workforce, SCCM has provided a large array of free online training resources to healthcare professionals in and around Ukraine, with some translated into Ukrainian. Book chapters and online modules were released for free from SCCM’s new Fundamental Critical Care Support: Crisis Management course and include translations as well as other relevant educational materials. SCCM also is offering free access to journals through its relationship with the World Health Organization.
“I am so proud of all the amazing work that our members, partners, and staff have done to provide medical supplies, humanitarian aid, and educational resources to frontline clinicians to better assist with the care of critically ill and injured patients in Ukraine,” said SCCM President Sandra L. Kane-Gill, PharmD, MSc, FCCP, FCCM. “It is during these moments that SCCM’s mission to secure the highest-quality care for patients is most near to my heart.”
Learn more about SCCM’s response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and consider donating to SCCM’s efforts by visiting the SCCM's Ukraine response page.

SCCM and Direct Relief have partnered together nearly a dozen times since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Past collaborations include:
  • Providing ICU kits and oxygen concentrators to the NYC Health and Hospitals System during the initial surge of COVID-19 cases
  • Distributing powered air-purifying respirators and ICU kits to healthcare systems in California, Texas, and Florida
  • Delivering 69 oxygen concentrators to health facilities in Brazil during a COVID-19 surge
  • Offering financial contributions to Direct Relief in 2021 in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquake to support the charity’s long-time healthcare partners


  1. Vierlinger J. UN: Ukraine refugee crisis is Europe’s biggest since WWII. Atlantic Council. April 20, 2022. Accessed July 7, 2022.


Posted: 7/27/2022 | 0 comments

Knowledge Area: Crisis Management 

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