Ukraine Health Crisis

All contents Copyright 2022-2023 William F. Pewen

Irpin Hospital Ward

This page provides some updates and observations as I work to assist in the ongoing health crisis in Ukraine arising from the Russian invasion – specifically focusing on helping to prevent and mitigate infectious disease outbreaks.

In war, the toll of disease often equals or even exceed combat casualties. Russia’s destruction of cities and infrastructure, targeting of health facilities, and displacement of approximately one in four Ukrainians from their homes all contribute to epidemic disease risk. Such a tragedy could become even more widespread, rippling across Europe and the Atlantic.

A multiyear effort to both bolster diagnosis and therapy, and reduce the immunization deficit requires approximately $95 million dollars to accomplish. That is funding that must be provided by governments and philanthropies, and it represents just 1/4 of 1% of total US assistance spent in the first year of the war.

In contrast to that cost, like many others here I have largely self-financed my efforts. I am thankful for those of you who have contributed to defray a bit of that. If you are looking to know more or help with either funds or medical equipment or supplies, email me at

Posts – Most recent first

March 10 – 2022 Retrospective
Like some others, my time in blogging and fundraising is miniscule. In recent months I’ve focused on immunization deficits. The most severe appear to be in the 5.2 million children under 14 in whom nearly half of immunizations were missed. In some years, a scheduled vaccination was completed in less than 1 in 5 children. This leaves millions at risk. There is growing recognition among Ukraine and U.S. governments, as well as UN agencies of the risk, and efforts to reduce it are underway. That is progress.

As I recently authored an account of work in 2022 for an editor in California, I am providing that here in an effort to catch up on things a bit, and give more of you a brief view of the situation in Ukraine.

September 4 – Irpin and Bucha (Kyiv Suburbs)
I joined media representatives for a survey of impacts in these communities. The clear and overwhelming targeting of civilians is obvious. Russians destroyed health facilities, housing, schools, and infrastructure. Such targeting causes both immediate, and longer term casualties from health effects.

Irpin hospital strike
Patient room at Irpin
One of a multitude of cars stacked together which have been struck by automatic weapons
Irpin building facade
Destroyed housing in Irpin
Many remain displaced from damaged homes and are now living in crowded conditions
Destroyed university buildings in Irpin
Directly across the street, munitions ripped through steel and brick
Destroyed school in Irpin
Munition impacts next door to Irpin school
Bucha Shopping Center (west end)
Bucha Shopping Center (east end)
Fragments of Russian weapon which struck shopping center

July 7Expat perspectives up close

I was perusing my laptop where I had been making some quick impressions of life in this war. As I have had phone and teleconference calls, within two weeks here I noted an increasing dissonance between seeing a conflict through a media filter, versus “on the ground”. The key one, is the 24/7 presence…and living with those who are suffering. The dissonance and the huge time zone shift, can make for frustration. Most days I feel an imperative that is difficult to impart to those stateside.

Some impressions…..

Meeting a Ukrainian mother in Budapest traveling to the Balkans with her son to find work…she had to leave her husband behind…and she wants to feed me from a meager bag of food she is carrying

A raucous Ukrainian family group in the compartment next to ours, the women finding joy in life…talking and laughing into the late night hours on the night train to the Polish-Ukrainian border.

A rail compartment companion whose bilingual skills were as limited as mine…but still we manage to understand each other.

The reaction during a border check as 49 returning Ukrainians aboard a bus realize an American is riding with them to Ukraine

Seeing a family reunion in Lviv train station…dog included

Air raids…lots of sirens…but people carry on anyway

Getting dinner in Lviv with young people who are convinced the world will get better

Suddenly realizing you have a curfew…and you are not 16

Meeting a soldier still wearing dressings on a war injury…and others without limbs.

Sharing a room with a medic who is recovering and woman who may never, after she lost home and loved ones

Riding a train with a soldier who is terribly sick, but resolute.

Walking streets your grandfather did as a young man.

Amazed that without many road connections, nor air service, somehow the store shelves are mostly stocked.

The bizarre feeling that one is living an updated version of WWI or WWII, as the war becomes one of trenches, artillery, and rockets.

Having to explain that no, I can’t hop a plane, there is no Amazon delivery, my banking services are almost nil, my health insurance doesn’t work here, and though things are a little difficult…this is nothing like the Donbas.

The chaos of struggling to remember your meager college Russian and finding that as it comes back…now you need to switch to Ukrainian

Thinking you just heard a plane overhead, and realizing if you actually did, you might want to duck…

Finding that ice cream and coffee stands are ubiquitous in Kyiv

Experiencing checkpoints reminiscent of the cold war…because now it’s a hot one

The kind woman in my hotel who must make a relatively meager wage, but brings in waffles with cherry topping to feed us breakfast

Finding the best-selling mens wear may now be cammo

Playing MacGyver a lot..improvising

Becoming blaise about sandbags and automatic weapons

Seeing the joy in the face of a babushka when you tell about your grandparents origins here

Feeling tired most of the time as you’re up at 630, but then often up till 2 am because you’re talking to some people half way around the world

Being light years closer than watching a broadcast news clip, being continually connected to the subjects of the story in a way that is so totally different.   

Americans are here for a lot of reasons.  One of them relates to the simple fact that one must “pay it forward”, because most of us are the product of ancestors who did just as Ukrainians are doing now.  And you realize that could be their gift to us – helping to rekindle a stronger sense of community.    

July 6

The “New Normal” here involves more than COVID. On the metro…in between short vignettes on Ukrainian history, and some ads…I saw a public safety message…one we shouldn’t have to be providing:


Mine Safety
What you need to know how to do!

Bypass projectiles that don’t explode…they are ready to explode at any moment
Don’t pick up found items that may be disguised explosive devices
..approach an explosive object
..move it or pick it up
..disassemble, throw, beat on it
..make a campfire nearby
..bring it home

July 5

At the Ukraine Recovery Conference, the immense cost of rebuilding is discussed. Regardless of how this burden is borne, Ukraine cannot move forward without health security. Ensuring that now will reduce the cost of recovery and save lives.

Earlier Ukraine Scenes

I’ve pulled just a few scenes to give one a picture of Ukraine (largely scenes in and near Lviv and Kyiv). I generally avoid the tragic photos, though I meet many who traumatized or injured…and one must also recognize that photos and depictions of colleagues and work can present security issues. Thus I filter a great deal at this time. This is not only a humanitarian crisis…it is also wartime.

Countryside approaching Lviv
Reunion with family and pets in Lviv
My lodging in Lviv was in shared quarters with a medic and a refugee from Kharkiv
One of the generations of the infamous Ladas still on the road

Family time with children on a Sunday in Lviv
Throughout the country are memorials to those lost in this war
Kyiv is a magnificent city – the people, culture, architecture, and scenery.
Kyiv is in a “New Normal” state – business reduced somewhat, air raids, etc…but persevering.
Maidan Square (almost curfew!)

Barriers are distributed throughout Kyiv…Bucha is just minutes away.
“The development of a people can be judged by how it treats animals”
…and Ukrainians exhibit that.
Signage that children were in this car didn’t deter Russian attackers

Remnants of a Russian tank on St Michael’s Square
Many foreign volunteers (flags of the nations of those who have served)
War creates some incredible contrasts
No rubles wanted here….
A too common sight is of those bandaged and struggling with the wounds of war…and of funerals.
Amidst crowds and conflict in a resolute nation, a dog just lies down and takes a nap.