United We Stand: supporting refugees
Sangam Malani is a Speciality Registrar in Elderly Medicine at Northwick Park Hospital and the chair of the BGS Trainees Council. She tweets at @SangamMalani. Charlotte Squires is a medical registrar in the Scottish borders. She is BGS Digital Medical Editor and Trainee Representative. She tweets at @CharSquires. Julianaa Raghu is a Geriatric Trainee currently on an out of programme experience with the West Kent Home Treatment Service. She tweets at @rags_sad
Following the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, many of us have seen and read about the widescale difficulties being experienced by that country. Over the last few weeks, more than one million refugees have fled Ukraine. We know that there will be significant health needs because of the war in Ukraine and that older adults will be at particular risk of adverse outcomes from environmental exposure, lack of basic resources, and delays in healthcare provision.
This war has brought other global conflicts to the forefront of the discussion. Currently there are 82 million displaced people around the world because of war, violence, persecution and other emergencies.1 A large proportion of this population has been internally displaced but 30 million people have fled to other countries as refugees and asylum seekers. About two-thirds of today’s refugees come from the following countries: Syria (6.8 million), Venezuela (5.4 million), Afghanistan (2.8 million), South Sudan (2.2 million), and Myanmar (1.1 million).2 84% of all refugees are being hosted by low and middle-income countries.3
We want to share words of solidarity with all those affected and have compiled a list of resources that might be helpful, both to support patients and colleagues in Ukraine, but also with fundraising or provision of medical equipment.
- Colleagues and trainees Offer support and time to colleagues experiencing difficulties because of conflict. This may be in the form of compassionate leave and acknowledging that those whose country of origin is involved on either side may require support.
- Education Learn about the specific health needs and how to overcome common barriers with the BMA’s resources.
- Mentoring You can volunteer to mentor a refugee doctor as they start work again through Reache or projects like the Lincolnshire Refugee Doctors Project.
- Refugee doctors You could support Building Bridges. It is a programme that helps refugee health professionals living in London to restart their careers.
- Donation of medical equipment and supplies Dr Topping is a registrar in geriatric medicine in Edinburgh who is coordinating a local effort to send medical equipment over to Ukraine.
- Community Sponsorship You can help prepare for and welcome a refugee family to the local area by taking part in a refugee resettlement programme via Reset.
- Fundraising Fundraise for charities like Refugee Action. Their Race for Refugees in 2021 raised over £30,000.
- Policy Support the British Red Cross with their calls to decision-makers to speak up for refugees.
- Shopping The UNHR identifies refugees with artisanal skills and connects them to local social enterprise partners resulting in beautiful products you can buy on MADE51.
- Volunteer Consider volunteering for the Refugee Council in one of their many roles ranging from Befriender to Therapist.
- How you can help from the UK The government website outlines what you can do as a citizen of the UK to help Ukraine. It has also launched the Homes for Ukraine scheme where people and organisations can register their interest in hosting fleeing Ukrainians.
- Oxfam is part of the Disasters Emergency Committee and is raising funds to provide lifesaving aid to people fleeing conflict in Ukraine.
- UNICEF is working tirelessly to keep the most vulnerable children and families safe and you can support their efforts using this link.
- Action Aid is supporting refugees in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian crisis to help them rebuild their lives.
- Médecins Sans Frontières is an international, independent medical humanitarian organisation responding to the Ukrainian crisis and is working to rapidly scale up their medical and humanitarian response.
Under international law, it is not an option to assist refugees, it is an obligation."
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights