Physicians and Psychotherapists Appeal for Ukraine Solidarity

During the Russian war on Ukraine, Europe must manage an influx of refugees. German physicians and psychotherapists assure colleagues and the people of Ukraine of their solidarity.

Here’s what happened over the weekend

Urgent humanitarian aid needed for Ukraine

On February 27, millions of people across all countries of free Europe protested against the war launched by Russia against Ukraine. According to the police, well over 100,000 people demonstrated in Berlin alone in front of the Russian Embassy on Unter den Linden boulevard, at the Brandenburg Gate and on Straße des 17. Juni (English: 17th of June Street). Physicians and psychotherapists assured their Ukrainian colleagues and the people of the invaded country of their solidarity.

"As physicians, we have worked together across borders to care for patients from all over Europe, including most recently during the pandemic. Therefore, especially these days, we are standing by our colleagues who now have to care for the people in Ukraine under the most difficult circumstances. As medical professionals, we are well aware of how vulnerable life is and how traumatic war efforts can be for the souls of those affected."

Dr. Klaus Reinhard, Chairman of Hartmannbund

Dr. Dirk Heinrich, chairman of the umbrella organization of medical specialists and the NAV Virchowbund of doctors in private practice, demanded that Germany be prepared to provide medical and humanitarian aid for war-wounded people and refugees. The war in Ukraine and its consequences for the health of those affected will put the COVID-19 pandemic into perspective, he said.

Psychotherapists expect 5 million refugees from Ukraine

The Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists "is horrified" by the Russian military's invasion of Ukraine. In addition to sanctions, it is necessary to prepare to provide humanitarian aid to millions of refugees, they said. According to UNHCR, some 370,000 people fled Ukraine for neighboring countries just in the first three days of the war, most of them women and children and the majority of them to Poland. These countries will be overwhelmed in providing for the refugees, according to the Chamber. Germany ought to support its EU neighbors and take in Ukrainian refugees. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock asserted that Germany’s doors are "wide open".

Drawing on U.S. estimates, the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists says a projected five million people are expected to flee the war zone.

IPPNW has sharply criticized Russia's Ukraine invasion:

"Russian troops violated the integrity and security of Ukraine. This is Russia massively fueling the conflict, abrogating the Minsk peace agreement, and breaking international law."

This could result in a humanitarian catastrophe, and the war might spill over into wider Europe or escalate into a nuclear conflict. On February 27, Russian President Putin put all of his country's deterrent weapons, including nuclear weapons, on high alert. Against this backdrop, IPPNW Chairman Dr. Lars Pohlmeier called for de-escalation and for a return to the negotiating table.

Medical care must remain secured

Elsewhere, the chairman of the German Medical Technology Association, Dr. Marc-Pierre Möll, appealed for prudence in imposing sanctions against Russia.

"It's important for all stakeholders to keep in mind that sanctions do not interfere with the safe supply and delivery of medical technologies, components and raw materials, and spare parts for maintenance wherever they are needed." 

He said they would work closely with the German government and with the EU to ensure that medical care remains available to people in all parts of the world. 

The first relief efforts have since been launched. For instance, the German government has increased Germany's contribution to the UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) Humanitarian Relief Fund for Ukraine by five million euros. An additional ten million euros will be made available to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC is active on the ground in Ukraine and in neighboring states. The German government's total humanitarian aid to Ukraine is to be increased by an initial 48 million euros.

Also, aid organizations such as Aktion Medeor from Tönisvorst sent a transport of medical supplies on February 26, primarily for the care of the injured. Medeor had been approached by Ukrainian healthcare institutions for help. The Kaufbeuren-based association Humedica is also working with local partners. The organization's managing director, Johannes Peter, expects shortages of food, toiletries and medical equipment not only in Ukraine, but also in neighboring countries that are currently taking in refugees. He said that relief aid transports are being prepared. To this end, the association is in continuous contact with its partners on the ground, says Peter.