Humanitarian groups and the Polish government are so far keeping up with the waves of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion, according to Morgan Broccoli, a Harvard physician in Poland, but aid has yet to reach areas of active conflict and relief workers are bracing for the border situation to deteriorate if fighting spreads west.
Broccoli, an emergency doctor and clinical fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, arrived in Poland on March 1 and has spent the last week traveling with the nonprofit Team Rubicon conducting a needs assessment to inform humanitarian missions in the days and weeks ahead. She has visited border crossings, hospitals, and other key locations, talking with fellow physicians, aid workers, and refugees.
In total, more than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the invasion, with the majority crossing into Poland. Most are women and children — the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky has barred men under 60 from leaving the country — who have left their homes to seek safety. Few, if any, have acute needs. Instead, Broccoli said, they are seeking treatment of viral illnesses and injuries developed during the trip, medications for chronic ailments such as heart disease and diabetes, and maternity and pediatric care. But if the physical needs are mostly routine, the scale of psychological trauma, including anxiety for the safety of loved ones, is deep and widespread. Many have left behind husbands and sons, and have no sense of what the future holds. Broccoli’s four-person assessment team is recommending that future aid groups include pediatricians and psychologists.