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Helping the diabetes community in Ukraine

Learn about the different ways in which you can support people living with diabetes in the Ukraine.
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Mary-Liz McGrath 4 March 2022

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This resource has been created with thanks to JDRF International, JDRF Australia and the Beyond Type 1 Alliance.

What is the current situation?

The situation on the ground remains volatile, with the only constants being lives at risk and uncertainty about what comes next. In that context, there is an additional layer of danger for the ~120,000 people with type 1 diabetes and a similar number of those with type 2 who depend on insulin.

For these brave Ukrainians, access to life-saving insulin, diabetes supplies and medical advice is being interrupted. Stocks of essential supplies on-hand vary markedly from city to city, and are as low as 2-3 days in some oblasts (administrative regions). Further, unstable electrical supply means the pharmacy systems frequently go down, forcing them to close until older paper-based methods can be revived.

Those men who are aged 18-60 are nonetheless remaining behind to fight, even if their diabetes places them at greater risk. But many of the estimated 15,000 children with type 1 and their families are moving to the relative safety of the western regions of the country and sometimes over the borders in hopes of escaping the conflict. Those who make it to Hungary, Moldova, Poland, or Romania are being received with wonderful generosity – we have heard stories ranging from governments making it possible to pick up insulin free without a script to individuals emptying their cupboards of insulin for those whose need is urgent.

We have been reliably informed that among the insulin manufacturers, Sanofi is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), that Lilly is working with Project Hope and Direct Relief and Novo has supplies in warehouses in Kyiv.

How can I help right now?

People with diabetes in Ukraine will need help, whether they are remaining behind, travelling to safer areas within the country, or crossing the borders.

Beyond Type 1 and JDRF have been working with those in Ukraine as well as other global organisations, such as the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and World Health Organisation (WHO), to better understand how our community can help. Our answer to this question will change as the situation evolves, so check back frequently.

In recommending individual organisations to support we have used the following criteria:

  • Does the organisation supply insulin and test strips?
  • Does the organisation have a distribution footprint in Ukraine?
  • Can the organisation deliver at scale (£300 million plus annual operations)?

Right now, one of the best ways to support people inside Ukraine appears to be a collaboration between the UK’s Disaster Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the USA’s Direct Relief (a large-scale humanitarian agency), and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). They are working closely together to understand where supplies are short, secure donations within Europe, and open up ‘green corridors’ within Ukraine to deliver them quickly to where they’re needed.

They have asked those who wish to help to donate either to the Disaster Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal or to Direct Relief and direct your donation to “Ukraine Crisis.”

For those who wish to support refugees outside Ukraine, the good news is that work is already being done by European governments and health ministries as well agencies like the UNHCR. But diabetes groups across Europe are also coordinating through the International Diabetes Federation to identify any remaining gaps and enable both local collection and centralised distribution of supplies to the areas of greatest need. If you know people in Ukraine, the following resource may be helpful:

Note: we are not aware of any other initiatives that combine local knowledge with the same capacity for scale, speed and distribution. We continue to conduct due diligence on other programmes and will update our advice as appropriate.

What should I do right now?

Please do not attempt to ship supplies or insulin directly into Ukraine, as most normal shipping avenues have been blocked or restricted. All air travel in and out of Ukraine has been suspended due to military activity. The Ukrainian government is doing what it can to assist humanitarian supply convoys at the borders, but it is difficult with multiple checkpoints and military activity preventing shipments from arriving. The last thing we all want is for insulin and supplies to be thrown away because they were not delivered in the right way.

We recognise that you may see individuals or organisations on social media asking for insulin or supplies to ship into Ukraine or into surrounding countries where refugees may go. While it is heartbreaking to see these requests, the best way to help these individuals at this time is to provide them with internal country resources to connect them with the closest medical clinic to get what they need.

According to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine: “All healthcare institutions continue providing medical care under martial law.” Individuals in Ukraine can call the ministry’s hotline at 0 800 50 52 01 to determine the closest open medical clinic.

Diabetes specific financial donations

Direct relief

Direct Relief is actively working to bring needed medical supplies into the country, with a large shipment of diabetes supplies arriving before the invasion by Russia. However, in a recent statement: “Insulin and other cold chain medications are expected to be in short supply…”

The International Diabetes Federation asks those who wish to help people with diabetes in Ukraine to donate to Direct Relief and direct your donation to “Ukraine Crisis.”

Disaster aid relief: shelter, sanitation, food and medical supplies

We have been told by people with diabetes in Ukraine that hunger and access to food is a growing issue, we are including in this brief the key agencies which are delivering medical supplies but also food, shelter and sanitation.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is mobilising in the surrounding countries to assist those crossing borders with emergency medical response camps. They are also attempting to help transport needed medical supplies across the border into Ukraine.

The Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Appeal

The DEC is a partnership of the 20 major international aid and disaster relief charities who are working in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. The charities include the British Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children and Action Aid. The charities work together with the United Nations and World Health Organisation to ensure shelter, medical supplies, food and sanitation effectively and efficiently reaches those people displaced by the war in Ukraine.  The DEC is backed by the UK Government, who pledge to match fund donations up to £20 million. Learn more about the DEC Ukraine Appeal and their work in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

Refugee assistance financial donations

UNHCR/The UN Refugee Agency

UNHCR/The UN Refugee Agency is not just monitoring and providing data but actively assisting those who need immediate assistance. As of 1 March, over 660,000 refugees have left Ukraine, with more expected as the conflict continues, with detailed information regarding each refugee-accepting country bordering Ukraine.

However, many others remain inside the country, unable to leave. UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo stated: “UNHCR is also ramping up its response in Ukraine to help displaced and conflict-affected people. But the volatile situation, security concerns, lack of safe access for humanitarian workers and movement restrictions are posing major challenges for aid workers, including UNHCR staff.”

Diabetes supply donations

Insulin For Life

While individual diabetes supplies donations cannot go directly to Ukraine, you can still help someone in the global diabetes community. Insulin For Life USA collects diabetes supplies from approved sources and distributes them in a number of developing countries. Spare a Rose for Ukraine will run through March 2022 with all donations going to Insulin for Life. We have been told that Insulin for Life has supplies ready to go to Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

What else can I do?

There are many who will feel deeply moved by the situation in Ukraine and wish we could do something more, or make a more personal contribution. If you wish to have an impact on the lives of people living with diabetes, we strongly believe the advice we gave above is the best available at this time.

However, if like us you are still left wanting to do more, we’d urge you to consider reaching out and offering your sympathy and support to those on the ground. This might seem a mere gesture, but we are told by those in Ukraine that there is a world of difference between fighting a desperate fight alone, and fighting it with the global community at your back.

Homes for Ukraine

On 18th March 2022 the UK Government launched Phase One of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, which allows British sponsors to host Ukrainian refugees in their homes. If you are interested, you can record your interest in doing so.  Registration does not allow you to submit a preference for refugees with type 1 diabetes.

You will need to be able to provide someone a spare room, or a separate self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied, for at least 6 months. In advance of their arrival, thorough checks will be carried out on your background and your home environment. Checks will also be carried out on those arriving from Ukraine. For those who are sponsoring a Ukrainian family which includes a child or a vulnerable adult, an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check will be conducted.

If you already know the name of the person or people you wish to sponsor in your home, you can reach out to them directly and submit a visa application. Successful sponsors will receive a one-off £350 ‘thank you’ payment from the government.

The government is working with charities, faith groups, universities, businesses and industry representative bodies who have networks across Europe, to ensure people who want to help are matched to people from Ukraine – such as through a charity or social media. Charities that could help connect you with someone include:

To register your interest and find further information, please visit the Homes for Ukraine website.

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