Monday 11 April 2022

SAFER Ukraine - The Power of the Global Pediatric Oncology Community

For the last few weeks, we have all watched with horror at the unfolding events in Ukraine. The casualties of war are not only the armed forces personnel, but also civilians (men, women and children) in Ukraine who have been caught in the cross-fire and the bombings of residential areas, theatres, markets and even hospitals.

According to "More than 4.5 million refugees have since left Ukraine (as of 9 April 2022), while an estimated 6.5 million people have been displaced within the country (as of 18 March 2022). In total, more than ten million people – approximately one-quarter of the country's total population – had left their homes in Ukraine by 20 March. By 24 March 2022, according to UNICEF, more than half of all Ukrainian children had been forced to leave their homes."

Through these incredibly difficult times, there are many examples of individuals and groups which have come forward to the aid of the Ukrainian citizens.  One such example is the SAFER UKRAINE initiative which stands for Supporting Action For Emergency Responses in UKRAINE and has been set up by St Jude Global along with multiple partners from the global pediatric oncology community including SIOP (International Society of Pediatric Oncology) and CCI (Childhood Cancer International).

SAFER Ukraine has established a virtual command center to coordinate evacuations and ensure treatment continues for pediatric oncology patients. The process includes determining transportation logistics and identifying high-risk patients who are deteriorating. The SAFER Ukraine team and volunteers translate medical records, coordinate departure travel and manage the logistics of transport across the border. In addition to the above efforts, the team also established a triage clinic in Poland. Patients and their families can rest and recover from the evacuation while awaiting assignment to a clinic for continued treatment.

Through these efforts, more than 800 Ukrainian children with cancer have been registered and over 500 have been transferred to clinics in Poland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and USA. In my 15 years of experience of engaging with the global pediatric oncology community (which has always been sensitive to healthcare disparities and has continually worked to improve the outcomes of those in resource-limited settings) such a concerted advocacy and humanitarian effort is unprecedented and I can only applaud and wish them well. 

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