FEATURE: Taiwan donations aid Ukrainian hospitals

A hospital in Kharkiv, near the Russian border, welcomed Taiwan’s donations of supplies, which the director said was more critical than receiving money

Taiwan has been providing humanitarian aid to help Ukrainians injured or displaced by Russia’s invasion since the start of the war on Feb. 24.

Under the “Taiwan Can Help” initiative, the nation has donated US$5.8 million in two tranches, in April and last month, with funds sent to hospitals in Ukraine that treat people injured in the war.

One of the main beneficiaries has been National Specialized Children’s Hospital Okhmatdyt in the capital, Kyiv, which in peacetime provides specialized care to children with rare and genetic diseases.

Photo: CNA

Since the start of the war, the hospital has been flooded with injured children, some of whom have to be put on beds in hallways, while its medical supplies are being depleted at an alarming rate, hospital staff said.

“Now we’ve changed our focus to children who suffered from war, caused by Russia,” hospital general director Volodymyr Zhovnir said in a thank-you video message to Taiwan. “To treat these children, we use all of our facilities, personnel and hardware.”

Most of the children are victims of Russia’s shelling of civilian residential areas, gas stations and supermarkets, staff said.

Some of the children are infants who have sustained head and limb injuries during the attacks, they said.

Taiwan’s donations have helped the hospital purchase a computerized tomography coronary angiogram machine that would be used to assess surgical and medical options for injured children, hospital medical director Serhiy Churnishuk said.

“It’s very important equipment for us,” Churnishuk said, adding that the machine improves the treatment of patients who might require brain surgery or other invasive procedures.

While the hospital has been trying to treat and shelter as many children as possible, it cannot save the lives of all those admitted, and some never make it to the hospital because of the distance they must travel in a war zone, he said.

The difficulties of travel have affected not just patients, but also hospital staff, he said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, most of the staff, including doctors, nurses and technicians, have been staying at the hospital, because it is impossible for them to commute between work and home, he said.

“Most of us … sleep here, eat here, live here,” he said.

In the city of Kharkiv, just 40km from the border with Russia, another hospital, the Institute of General and Urgent Surgery, is also struggling to save lives, due to a shortage of supplies, among other problems.

Some of its windows were blown out during air raids and have been patched with pieces of wood.

The hospital is helping alleviate the pressure on military hospitals on the front lines, and is treating soldiers, as well as civilians, as Ukrainian forces fight to drive out Russian forces in Kharkiv, hospital vice president Yevhen Datsenko said.

Injured civilians are being treated in military hospitals, and those brought to the institute are usually complicated cases, he said.

“The first days — yes, there were many [patients admitted], and after about two weeks already, well, a few a week. No mass entry,” Datsenko said through a translator.

The hospital is facing a supply shortage due to logistics disruptions, which is why Taiwan’s donations of medical supplies such as bandages, antibiotics, respirators and surgical equipment were more practical than financial aid, he said.

“Even if we had the money, it would be difficult to buy [supplies],” Datsenko said, adding that the medical supplies received from foreign governments, including Taiwan, were more important that money.

More than 7 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the war, many of them fleeing to neighboring countries such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia, UN High Commissioner for Refugees data showed.

About half of Ukrainian refugees are now in Poland, with 50,000 of them in Lublin, which has a population of 340,000, UN data showed.

Taiwan has donated US$11 million and more than 200 tonnes of supplies to Poland, after the Taipei Representative Office in Poland approached the Lublin City Government with an offer of humanitarian aid, Lublin International Cooperation Center Director Krzysztof Stanowski said.

Lublin welcomed Taiwan’s donations, which would be used to feed Ukrainian families and assist students and children, he said.

Taiwan has also donated money and supplies to other European countries that have taken in Ukrainian refugees, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia.

While Taiwan’s donations might pale in comparison to those of Western countries, Taiwan’s speed in providing the aid has been applauded by politicians, Taiwan representative to Poland Bob Chen (陳錦龍) said.

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