Local nonprofits are watching carefully as Russia’s full-scale invasion leaves Ukraine shaken.
“We are closely monitoring the situation there,” Kerri Murray, president of Santa Barbara-based ShelterBox USA, told the News-Press Thursday. “The military attack there leaves us deeply concerned about the impact it’s going to have on the people who are forced to flee.
“Civilians are fleeing on foot, in cars. It’s freezing; it’s horribly cold,” Ms. Murray said. “We also saw reports that people are beginning to flee into bomb shelters and subway stations. …
“We’ve already heard reports of neighboring countries that are preparing to potentially receive displaced people, countries like Poland,” she said. “This is going to be unfolding over days, weeks, months. We’re deeply concerned.
“I think events in Ukraine are fast-moving and changing rapidly,” she said. “It’s hard to predict what will happen and how many people are fleeing.”
ShelterBox and Goleta-based Direct Relief have both helped Ukraine in the past.
“Direct Relief staff in Europe reported Thursday that air travel into Ukraine has been suspended indefinitely and that thousands of people fleeing Ukraine had crossed into the neighboring countries of Moldova and Poland seeking refuge,” Tony Morain, vice president of communications, wrote in a post at directrelief.org.
Mr. Morain said that as recently as last week, a large Direct Relief shipment of diabetes supplies arrived in Ukraine.
“Since January 2021, Direct Relief has supplied Ukrainian healthcare providers with more than $27 million in medical aid,” Mr. Morain said.
He said Direct Relief’s inventory includes IV fluids, antibiotics, medications for anesthesia, sutures and cardiovascular drugs.
Mr. Morain told the News-Press Thursday that Direct Relief was still making decisions about its shipments to Ukraine and noted it was being advised by its program staff in Eastern Europe.
“It’s too early to say at this point whether the invasion will have any sort of effect or delay on shipments,” Mr. Morain said.
Ms. Murray of ShelterBox noted the challenges include Ukranians internally displaced within their country and refugees going into neighboring nations.
She noted 1.5 million people were displaced within Ukraine by Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.
“Within the country, there were 3.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid before the military launch this morning,” she told the News-Press Thursday.
Ms. Murray is part of the global-wide ShelterBox team that could make decisions on whether and how to send temporary shelters and essential supplies into Ukraine.
“We have deployed there before, so it would not be unusual,” Ms. Murray said, but added it’s difficult to say today what ShelterBox will do. “Do we have good partners to work with there? Is the government requesting shelter-based aid?”