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Paediatricians sign open letter urging support for Ukrainian children

Refugees wait for Ukrainian police to check their papers and belongings (Vadim Ghirda/AP/PA)
Refugees wait for Ukrainian police to check their papers and belongings (Vadim Ghirda/AP/PA)

More than 300 paediatricians have signed an open letter calling for the Government to provide support to doctors treating children injured during Russia’s war with Ukraine.

The letter, published online in the medical journal The Lancet, warns of children experiencing “severe trauma – both physical and psychological” as a result of air strikes taking place after Vladimir Putin’s army launched an invasion more than a month ago.

Bombings on schools and hospitals have taken place in the nation over the last few weeks, including a maternity and children’s ward in Mariupol which was attacked on March 14.

On Thursday, the Government said 5.29 million medical items had now been donated to Ukraine, including lifesaving medicines, wound packs and intensive care equipment.

The latest flight carrying medical equipment left Birmingham Airport bound for Poland on Thursday morning. Items will then be transported to Ukraine.

The letter from the paediatric doctors and Save the Children said: “Children are more likely than adults to experience blast injuries of a greater severity, have a disproportionate requirement for health services, and are more likely to die as a result.

“If children survive explosive weapons, they often find themselves dealing not only with physical trauma and disability, but also the acute stress caused by growing up in a conflict zone. Left untreated, the long-term effects result in children facing a lifetime of physical and mental suffering.

“We are sending a plea for immediate action from the British Government to stand up in solidarity with all healthcare staff trying to care for children caught in conflict at this difficult time and to offer practical assistance where possible.

“This could include (but is not limited to): direct medical support; training; medical advice and guidance; distribution of resources like the ‘Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual’.”

Russian invasion of Ukraine
A young Ukrainian refugee sits on a bus bound for Przemysl after crossing the border point from Ukraine into Medyka, Poland (Victoria Jones/PA)

According to the United Nations, 99 children have died and 126 have been injured since the start of the conflict, although numbers are thought to be higher.

Dr Dan Magnus, the original author of the open letter, said: “When children suffer severe injuries to their legs and arms, it takes highly specialised knowledge to know where to amputate so that you can factor in future growth. Without that, children are left with even worse disabilities, and often intractable pain for life.

“I have seen with my own eyes the devastating impact conflict can have on children. It’s crucial that the UK steps up now and uses its influence to ensure that at the very least, children in Ukraine get lifesaving medical assistance as soon as they need it.”

The Government said it has been working closely with Ukrainian officials to deliver targeted support to ensure medical items are reaching people who need them most.

A spokesperson said: “In addition to providing over 5 million vital medical items to Ukraine and giving 21 Ukrainian children urgent cancer care, we are also working with the NHS and medical educational organisations to provide virtual training for Ukrainian healthcare professionals.

“This includes a course prepared by the UK’s world-leading health experts on topics such as delivering surgery in war situations. We will continue to give Ukraine the support it needs.”

Some of the items that have been sent by the UK Government so far include nearly 3,000 adult resuscitators, around 220,000 wound care packs, about 380,000 packs of medicines – containing 2.8 million doses – including antibiotics and painkillers and 1,600 pieces of equipment for ventilators.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
A Ukrainian family walk out of the customs office at Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland (Victoria Jones/PA)

Previous jets have flown from Stansted, Birmingham and Heathrow airports as well as RAF Brize Norton over the last month. The lifesaving medicines, intensive care equipment and wound packs have been donated by NHS England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A total of £400 million in humanitarian and economic aid has been provided by the Government to Ukraine and neighbouring countries since the Russian invasion started.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The appalling atrocities inflicted on the Ukrainians by Putin’s evil attacks are causing untold misery to millions of people.

“The invasion has created a medical emergency and the UK has acted swiftly to give our Ukrainian friends the medical support they need which has helped save tens of thousands of lives.

“The UK will continue to stand with the remarkable people of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s horrendous invasion.”